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A Gordy's Market store in downtown Chippewa Falls is pictured on Wednesday, Nov. 29. Members of the Schafer family entered into a purchase agreement to buy six Gordy's locations, including Chippewa Falls and Lake Wissota locations, on Wednesday after auction proceedings in Milwaukee, according to a press release.

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Schafer family purchases original Gordy's stores, sales to be approved in December

Members of the Schafer family have entered into a purchase agreement to retain six Gordy’s stores — including Chippewa Falls and Lake Wissota — that were slated to be auctioned off Wednesday, according to receiver Michael Polsky.

Polsky, a Milwaukee attorney, has been involved in the sale and negotiation of Gordy’s Market entities since the chain entered receivership in August.

The purchase agreement — which involves stores in Chippewa Falls, Lake Wissota, Cornell, Ladysmith, Barron and Chetek — was made after the Wednesday morning auction, the release said. Judge James Isaacson is slated to approve the sales at a hearing at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 11 in Chippewa County Circuit Court.

“This transaction is in the best interest of our business, our customers, our vendors and our communities, and we are hopeful that the judge will issue his approval in December,” said Jeff Schafer, Gordy’s Market president, in a written statement.

Schafer also said retaining the six stores — instead of 26, as of earlier this year — will allow the company to become closer to its roots. The company began in 1966; members of the Schafer family have owned and operated the company since its inception.

The chain entered receivership in August after grocery supplier Nash Finch filed a lawsuit seeking $86 million. Settler’s Bank of Madison filed a claim for $4.9 million; the chain also owes $10.4 million in unsecured claims as of late October, Polsky said. (The Herald’s publisher, River Valley Newspaper Group, has filed one unsecured claim.)

Gordy’s locations throughout western and central Wisconsin have been sold to the following buyers:

  • Festival Foods purchased stores in Eau Claire and Tomah.
  • Nash Finch purchased stores in Arcadia, Galesville and La Crosse.
  • Hilco Global, LLC purchased stores in Chippewa Falls, Hayward, Eau Claire and Rice Lake.
  • Hansen’s IGA purchased a store in Black River Falls.
  • Family Foods purchased stores in Neillsville and Whitehall.
  • Great Lakes Foods purchased stores in Osseo and Augusta.

No mention was made of the Gordy’s Stanley location, which was not included in the six stores auctioned Wednesday at the Milwaukee Athletic Club.

Hilco Global, which purchased four stores, including a location on the south side of Chippewa Falls (Chippewa Commons), may not use the buildings as grocery stores. The company, based in Illinois, bills itself as a financial services company.

The sale of the Neillsville store is under dispute but heading into mediation, November court records showed. Though Family Foods was the store’s highest bidder, Hansen’s IGA and Keng Enterprises have objected to the sale.

A message left at receiver Polsky’s office Wednesday seeking comment was not returned by the Herald’s press deadline Wednesday night.

Baker remains alive and cookin' on Food Network

Coulee Region baker Jennifer Barney continues to collect culinary kudos from the critics on “The Holiday Baking Championship” — enough to keep her alive on the Food Network show even though she didn’t win a free pass this week.

The Pre-Heat challenge in the show's latest episode was to use a regular boxed yellow cake mix to bake a holiday dessert that had to be anything — except a cake.

Now, anybody knows that experts like the Stoddard bakery owner wouldn’t be caught dead using a ready-made cake mix, but Barney rose to the occasion to incorporate it into what she named Ginger Ooey and Gooey Butter Bars.

The raspberry-topped bars, which Barney presented with an artistic holiday flair of chocolate-outlined holly leaves and berries, passed muster as a flavorful creation that didn’t taste like a cake.

Judge Lorraine Pascale, a British chef, pronounced it “tasty,” and judge Duff Goldman, or the Ace of Cakes, said, “The texture is fascinating.”

They didn’t proclaim Barney as the winner of the heat, though, but the praise puffed up her confidence for the Main Heat challenge, which determines the winner, those who advance to the next week and, of course, the baker who goes home.

The challenge for the remaining six bakers, out of the original nine, was to add a holiday spin to a non-holiday dessert. They normally get 90 minutes for this stage, but only the winner of the Pre-Heat got that much time, with the rest limited to 80 minutes.

Entering the challenge, Barney smiled when she got a side-hug from host Jesse Palmer, and she squealed when she learned that the non-holiday dessert she drew was a fruit tart.

Barney, a Chippewa Falls native who operates her Meringue Bakery out of her home, decided to make what she dubbed a Chinese Five Spice Fruit Tart.

Her creation included some tricks a novice home baker might want to try. For example, she needed a tart crust, and she used baking beans — not to be confused with baked beans — to spread on the crust to the edges so they wouldn’t collapse.

She also made two crusts, saying she wanted to have a spare in case anything happened to the first. The decision proved to be prescient, as the first crust split asunder, even though she used offset spatulas to lift it delicately from both ends.

The pressure was on as she tackled her backup, which she successfully transferred to a plate with just a nick on one side.

From there, it was easy-peasy to spread her tart filling between her alternating rows of raspberries and cherries. Well, it was easy-peasy for her, but the home baker might be challenged to do it as neatly as she did, with the filling looking like a candy cane.

During the evaluation of each dessert, after the judges had saluted the taste, host Palmer also declared that Barney’s dessert “wore the holiday makeover well,” putting her in the running to snag her second No. 1 finish of the season.

Alas, that distinction went to Stephany Buswell, a pastry arts instructor at the International Culinary Center in Santa Cruz, Calif., who was unmasked during the episode as a Master Baker.

Asked whether Buswell’s second consecutive win amped up tension, Barney said she had been nervous when she first went on the show because she expected the rivals to be intensely competitive.

“However, over the past several weeks on the show all of the contestants have become really close,” she said. “I hate using the word ‘love’ because it sounds cheesy, but I have grown to respect the other challengers on the show.”

They help each other and brainstorm behind the scenes, she said, adding, “I feel like we all agreed that we are mostly competing with ourselves and we are each others’ assets on the show.”

On the other hand, she said, laughing, “That Stephany is sneaky and modest. We jokingly made fun of her all day because of her elevated status. Becoming a Master Baker requires a lot of time, skill and money.”

The test is a two-day ordeal, and many chefs who try it can’t take the heat so they end up back at their old kitchens. Others try several times before passing, Barney said.

With $50,000 on the line for the winner, Barney said, “Honestly — at this point, I definitely want to win because, of course, I want the money. However, I will be proud of the person who wins because we have all worked really hard to get here.

“I am going to stick to my motto, which is, ‘I only need to be better than one person,’” she said.

The good responses from judges have buoyed her hopes, and, she said, “It feels really good to make it half way through the competition. I am trying to take more risks, and it is becoming easier to be myself.”

The bakers will face testing by fire on the next episode, which will air at 8 p.m. Central time Monday on the Food Network and will include a flambé challenge.

“I can tell you this — in my past I do not have a lot of experience lighting desserts on fire,” she said. “It definitely is not in my comfort zone. … I am dying to make a cake. It is where I am the strongest, and I have not been able to showcase my fullest abilities yet.”

Food Network 

Jennifer Barney designed her Chinese Five Spice Fruit Tart in the Main Heat challenge to look like a candy cane.

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Chippewa County makes strong showing in gun deer season

The nine-day gun deer season—which ended Sunday—saw a jump in Chippewa County’s harvest over last year, although the state’s overall numbers took a slight downturn.

The county’s deer kill was up roughly 16 percent, with a total of 2,795 kills, according to figures from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The overall state harvest saw a slight decrease of 0.8 percent from 2016’s numbers, with Wisconsin gun hunters taking 195,738 deer in total during the 2017 season.

“I’m not surprised by the numbers in Chippewa County,” said Bill Hogseth, a DNR wildlife biologist serving Chippewa and Eau Claire counties. “The last three years, Chippewa County has been in the ‘increase’ mode…when you have more deer, in order to achieve similar population goals, you’ll have to harvest more deer.”

Hunters don’t need to worry about the slight downturn in state numbers, DNR area supervisor Harvey Halvorsen told the Herald Wednesday.

“Combined with the early archery and crossbow season, some of our harvest is ahead of where we are last year,” he said. “That’s definitely natural fluctuation.”

The Wisconsin gun deer season saw seven hunting-related accidents, but no fatalities, Halvorsen said.

2017 was the end of a three-year cycle where Chippewa County actively increased the size of its deer herd by issuing fewer antlerless permits. From 2018 to 2020, the county is expected to adopt a “maintain” mindset to keep the herd’s current size steady, according to DNR figures.

“‘Maintain’ is the safest strategy…it allows flexibility and reflects a healthy deer herd, one that provides opportunities for hunters. A ‘maintain’ objective means the DNR and the CDAC (county deer advisory council) agrees the herd is close to the goal,” Halvorsen said.