Immigrants from Belgium, the Scray family found their way to the midwest in 1849. Two Generations later Edward Scray moved to De Pere, Wisconsin to purchase a cheese factory.
The factory first opened in 1924 specializing in Gouda, Cheddar, and butter. The small factory brought in milk from local farmers by way of milk cans on horse and buggy. Edward created his own cultures and used an open fire underneath the vats to heat the milk. He used wooden hoops to press the cheese into shapes and hand salted each piece. Edward passed his knowledge and expertise on to his son, Edgar, in 1948.
During this time, there were hundreds of cheese factories in Brown County alone.
Edgar increased production and was able to take on more local farms. He became an expert on producing cultures, this allowed Scray Cheese to have a steady flow of quality product going out the door. During this time, the steam-generating industry allowed Edgar to heat his vats with something other than an open flame. In time, he was able to move the cooler above ground and create a space for packaging.
Edgar takes pride in his multiple awards for Gouda, Cheddar, Colby and Butter. By the end of his ownership, there were only two cheese factories left in Brown County.
Edgar’s son, James, decided to take over the factory in 1982.
When 14, Jim started helping his father after school and during the summer. With thoughts of taking over the family business, Jim worked on getting his cheese maker license in 1980. He decided to continue the family tradition of cheese making by taking over the factory in 1982. He continued on to receive his pasteurization license in 1989. .He was able to purchase his cultures from Holland, decreasing the risks involved with producing cheese. Jim continued to emphasize quality in his cheese making process, focusing on Gouda and Cheddar.
Throughout the years, Jim is the first to arrive at the factory, preparing for the day. Jim oversees all operations, with an emphasis on the manufacturing of the cheese. Jim sets the pace and quality standards for Scray Cheese and continues to share his knowledge with his son, Ryan.
The factory is currently being passed to the fourth generation to Jim’s children, Ryan and Kayla.
Like Jim, Ryan grew up watching his father and grand father hard at work in the factory. At the age of 15, Ryan entered the cheese making world by waxing and packaging cheese. After receiving his business degree at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Ryan worked toward his cheese maker and pasteurization license and came back to work full time with his father in 2009. Ryan is now the plant manager and oversees manufacturing and quality control.
Similar to Ryan, Kayla started working at the factory at 15 years old. She also received a business degree at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Kayla took over the administrative and bookkeeping side of the business, guided by her grand father, Edgar. She then started a new venture for Scray Cheese and opened Scray Cheese Shoppe connected to the factory.
The factory has gone through many changes to increase production since Ryan and Kayla have returned. A third vat was installed, a new milk silo added, as well an additions to the brine, cooler and packaging areas. Starting a new tradition, Scray Cheese began producing Fontina in 2012.