Most knife services are located in metropolitan areas for good reason: it is where most of the customers are there. The workshop for Carisolo Grinding is tucked away in the Driftless Area of Southwest Wisconsin, in rural Spring Green. The nearest city that we provide knife service to is Madison, Wisconsin, a 45 minute drive. This leads some to ask, “Why Spring Green?”
In 1979, Maggie and Peter Maestri Sr. (my parents), were living in Chicago, Illinois. They were looking to make a move out of the city and into a different life; a better place to raise children away from the fast paced life of the city. My father’s cousin Doug lives just South of Spring Green, and visits to the area had long left an impression on him. Spring Green is home to many craftspeople, artists, and “the greatest American architect of all time,” Frank Lloyd Wright. The community is strong and the lay of the land beautiful. Following a short visit to the area, along with some other Chicago friends, my parents packed up and moved to Spring Green.
Shortly after arriving, cousin Doug suggested that they take a look at a small farm just north of the Wisconsin River. The farm was available for rent but had not been maintained for decades. Some of buildings were literally falling into the ground, but Peter and Maggie could see potential. The rolling hills, lush green vegetation, and secluded setting at the end of Fairview Rd., looked like a much better opportunity than anything that Chicago was offering them. Mom and Dad leased the farm and eventually bought it.
For the first couple of years my mother and father made ends meet by picking up jobs in Baraboo, Madison and the local area. My mother started a Montessori Preschool in the town of Spring Green, and my father created works of stained glass; selling individual pieces and doing repairs for churches. Before long the idea of starting a knife service was developing.
In 1981 my parents along with Chicago expat friend Joe Milinovich, they launched Carisolo Grinding. My father is a 3rd generation knife grinder, trained by his father and uncle in their knife service, Maestri Brothers. Dad had the skills, but the life of a knife grinder was not appealing; he saw his father working six or seven days a week in an overly saturated market. On top of that he was more interested in building and racing cars, traveling, school, military, sailing adventures. Starting a small business in rural Spring Green was different though. This presented the opportunity to apply his ability as an artist and make a living.....not always so easy in this world. Providing knife service to Madison, Milwaukee, and the more rural communities, was a much more interesting picture of a life in the knife business.
As my siblings and I grew up the knife business grew with us. At this point my brother Pete and I run the business out of the same shop as my dad did. We've expanded the shop itself to accommodate growth, but we're still here on the farm. So, that’s why we ended up in Spring Green. Having a shop in the city makes sense and I understand why everyone else does it (having the first stop on the route just a block away from your door), but, I’ll side with my parents on this one; the valley beats any alley in the city.