Take A Step Back

In Time


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The Yaggi Cheese business began back before the turn of the century. Josef Jaeggi was born in 1881 in the village of Solothurn, Switzerland, and would become the second oldest of eight children. His father, Victor, supported the family as a schoolteacher and Wilhamina, his wife, tended to the duties of house and home.

When Josef was a young teenager his father died suddenly, leaving a tremendous burden upon the older children and their mother to survive under these new life-altering circumstances. This drastic change in the family’s structure could have been the catalyst for Josef’s journey from his homeland to seek his fortune while helping to support his family back home.

Josef was inspired along the way to learn the art of cheese making, a common practice to use the leftover milk that could not be hauled fresh to the market. However, the skills of making cheese were traditionally passed from father to son within the family.

So he became an apprentice to those who would take him in, traveling as far as Austria and Yugoslavia, lodging with Aunts and Uncles as he learned the trade.

Immigrants in search of a better life had first introduced Swiss cheese to the United States in 1831. In the years that followed, letters written back home were encouraging friends and family to make the trip over to share in his newfound prosperity. There was rich farmland for their dairy cows and fertile business prospects in Ohio, especially around the areas of Holmes and Tuscarawas counties. By the time Josef had immigrated, Swiss cheese had not only become established but was a local favorite.

In 1904 he settled in Ohio and for the next several years he worked many odd jobs to raise the money needed to begin a small business. One of Joseph’s (changed from Josef) brothers, Victor, had the same ambition and also came to Ohio. Victor began to make cheese in a small factory located approximately 50 yards from Yaggi cheese’s present factory on Stonecreek Road (Old State Route 21) midway between New Philadelphia and Stonecreek. In 1924 a fire destroyed the factory and Joseph built the new one much larger than the original. With this new factory he began the Yaggi (changed from Jaeggi) Cheese business – Swiss cheese selling for 16 cents a pound.

During these years, Joe married Bertha Longenecker (also a Swiss immigrant) and had seven children. Each was expected to share the workload at home (built on top of the salesroom) and the business downstairs of making and selling Swiss cheese, along with bologna and crackers. It certainly was not an easy lifestyle, but with strong family values and hard work the Yaggi family established a respectable place in the community.

William Yaggi was born in 1928, the youngest of five girls and two boys. After graduating from New Philadelphia High School, Bill served in the army for one and a half years. He wanted to come back to work at the cheese factory, but his father urged him to continue his education. He took Dairy Tech at Ohio State for a year but felt school wasn’t for him. He came back home, but his father insisted on more schooling, so he attended Muskingum College for two years. There he met Phyllis Eckman and his life began to take direction. It was around that time that Bill knew what he wanted to do – to raise a family like his father did, and run the cheese business.

Bill married Phyllis in 1953 and lived across the road from his folks. They had three children, and in 1957 moved in above the salesroom and shared the house for a few months until Mom and Pop’s new house in town was finished. Three years after the move, Joe and Bertha both died in 1960. Bill officially took over the business in 1963. Phyllis was instrumental in keeping the business running smoothly. She kept the books in order, answered the telephone and often worked in the salesroom.

Times were changing and a new freeway (I-77) would direct the main flow of traffic away from the rural business. This combined with the new costly state regulations forced Bill to shut down his production of cheese in 1969. This also affected many area farmers who delivered their cows milk regularly – up to 2400 gallons a day during the peek summer months – which produced 8 – 200 pound wheels of cheese each day. It was the end of an era, sad for many whose livelihoods depended on it.

A few cheese makers deserve recognition for their skilled contribution in this history of Yaggi Cheese House. Rudy Graff (also a Swiss immigrant) was the first cheese maker to work alongside Joe and later Bill for a total of 20 plus years. He lived with his wife, Cora, in the adjacent house by the garage near the factory. Ernest Amacher made cheese in several locations before ending up at Yaggi Dairy. An immigrant from Canton Bern, Switzerland, he worked over 25 years for Joe and Bill before retiring in 1971. He and his wife Pauline raised five children in the house beside Joe. Rudy and Ernest are both now deceased.

Speaking of familiar faces, many salesroom workers became like family to customers and workers alike. Each has contributed their own unique flavor and personality to make this “Mom and Pop” business a winning recipe over the years.

Most of the Swiss cheese they sell they get from local cheese producers, and local distributors provide over 30 different kinds of cheese. In addition, Yaggi’s sells trail bologna, summer sausage, candy, jams, jellies, and spaghetti sauce to name a few.

Dave Yaggi is Bill’s second oldest, (born in 1955) and became the third-generation owner in 1996. After working a few odd jobs following high school he began helping out part-time. He now shares partnership with his wife, the former Colleen Stahl. “Coke” is employed full-time at Yaggi’s. They are proud to have maintained a humble business profile, as Joe and Bill before them, and have kept most of the surroundings familiar. Things look much like they did over 80 years ago, to the delight of the third, fourth, and even fifth generations of customers coming back each year.

Bill passed away in 2014. (his wife, Phyllis, passed away in 1988). Dave and Coke were married in 1994 and enjoy Coke’s two children and their four grandchildren who live locally.

In our hectic world today, it’s refreshing to take a drive in the country and make a stop at Yaggi’s. When you get there we hope you find that some things will never change; like good people behind the counter and great cheese!