Frankenmuth holds a special place in most Michiganders’ hearts. The city dates to the late 19th century, welcoming generation after generation of visitors to “Michigan’s Little Bavaria.” The Frankenmuth Cheese Haus is a Main Street staple for many patrons, offering more than 270 cheeses to sink your teeth into.
Behind the famous Cheese Haus stand three generations of Spartans with over half a century in business.
“Frankenmuth is a small town with a population of approximately 5,000 people. Michigan State taught us to think big,” said Judy Zehnder Keller, owner of the Frankenmuth Cheese Haus.
Keller (B.A. Hotel, Restaurant, & Institutional Management ’67, M.A. Educational Psychology ’72) purchased the Cheese Haus from her father in 1980 and has since worked with her children Michael Keller Zehnder (B.A. Commercial Recreation and Tourism ’04) and Martha Zehnder Kaczynski (B.A. Hospitality Business ’03) to manage the business’s ongoing success.
The Cheese Haus is especially iconic for its mouse mascot, which has been greeting visitors at its storefront since 1970. After five decades on display, the famed mouse was finally given a name: Klaus.
“We are excited to give our beloved mascot a name at last,” Keller said. “He is one of the most photographed landmarks in all of Frankenmuth.”
The name was chosen after a month-long contest held on social media and at the store that drew more than 5,400 suggested names. More than 10,600 votes were received to narrow down the top four names and ultimately identify the mascot as “Klaus the Cheese Haus Maus.”
“We were blown away with the viral response for naming our mouse,” Kaczynski, the third-generation owner/vice president, said. “We knew people loved this mouse, but the response was overwhelming.”
Kaczynski is looking forward to continuing the celebration this spring with Klaus’s 50th birthday on April 6. “In honor of this, all cheese in the store will be 50% off during April 6–9,” she said. “We invite you to come and have your picture taken with Klaus!”
Now you can say “cheese” with the famed (and named) Cheese Haus maus and say “Go Green” to the fellow Spartans behind it all.