Baensch Food Products puts historic Riverwest building up for sale

Herring producer moved most production out of state 20 years ago

Local herring producer, Baensch Food Products Co has sold its historic Riverwest Building at 1025 E. Locust St.. (Photo courtesy of Baensch Food Products Co.)

Herring producer, Baensch Food Products Co. is putting its historic Riverwest neighborhood building at 1025 E. Locust St. up for sale.

The company, which has called the 9,650-square-foot brick warehouse home since 1946, made the announcement Thursday morning via a press release.

The roughly 130-year-old building is listed for sale by Colliers | Wisconsin.

Although home to Baensch Food Products Co. production for decades, company owner Kim Wall said most of its production was moved offsite in 2002 – first to a plant in Nova Scotia and then to Minnesota in August of last year.

Complex production

Prior to production moving to Nova Scotia, the company had roughly 6.5 FTE (full-time equivalent employees), said Wall, who purchased the company in 1999. When the company moved all its production to Olson Fish Company in Minneapolis, the company had only 2.5 FTEs, a number that included Wall.

Today, the company’s only employee is Wall. Prior to August’s move the company had been only doing about 25 percent of its production at its Riverwest headquarters, in part due to the complexities of herring production, which is subject to a variety of Federal Department of Agriculture (FDA) processing requirements.

There are only about three plants in North America equipped to handle herring production, Wall said.

“It’s a very complex and unique process. It’s very old school,” Wall said.

With all production having moved to Minneapolis, Wall said she will continue to run the business from her home in St. Francis, she said.

“I kind of have an office on every floor of my house,” Wall said.

Same herring

Ma Baensch produces 12 and 24-ounce jars of marinated herring in two flavors, original and sour cream and chives. Lena (“Ma”) Baensch founded the company in 1932. The full transition to out-of-state production is expected to have no impact on the availability of the product here in Wisconsin.

“Ma Baensch Marinated Herring has been a long-time staple on tables throughout Wisconsin and the Midwest, delighting our loyal customers for decades. This transition has been seamless for our customers,” Wall said a news release. “The same delicious herring that they have come to expect is still being offered in the same packaging, using the same recipes and herring, at our same grocery partners’ locations.”

Historic building

Situated in the heart of Riverwest, the site where the Baensch building is located was originally purchased by Irish immigrant Garrett Fitzgerald who at one point was the Milwaukee County sheriff and county treasurer in 1851. The property was then sold to Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company in 1891 who sold it to Cudahy Brothers Company in 1914, and finally to Baench Food Products Company in 1946, according to a press release.

“This facility has been a loyal and beloved part of our company’s food packing operation. Now it’s time to pass it along to someone or group who will take good care of it,” Wall said in the release.

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Cara covers nonprofits, healthcare and education for BizTimes. Cara lives in Waukesha with her husband, a teenager, a toddler, a dog named Neutron, a bird named Potter, and a lizard named Peyoye. She loves music, food, and comedy, but not necessarily in that order.

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