Blog Archive

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Take a Day Trip to Paoli

I was recently introduced to Paoli when I dined at the marvelous Schoolhouse Cafe. I was immediately smitten and already planning a more in-depth return visit. I thought it would be fun to interview a long time resident, and the fabulous manager at the Schoolhouse Cafe found someone for me. I couldn't get back to the country soon enough!

The one and only Bill Hastings

I returned to Paoli on May 6, 2014 to interview Bill Hastings, who has more stories to tell than Charles Dickens. It was such a pleasure to meet him and I could have listened to him talk all day.

Hanging on so I don't blow away:)

Bill was born and raised in Madison. His great-grandparents managed the Mill in Paoli for a few years back in the early 1900s. While growing up he saw a photo in his family album and asked his mother what the building was. She told him it's the Mill and it was in that little town where his dad goes to buy cheese. He now owns the Mill and it's where I was sitting while interviewing him.

The Mill is an amazing structure inside and out.

Bill likes to save buildings, especially in Paoli, where he saved three of them. These buildings include the mill, schoolhouse, and hotel. He doesn't actually renovate a building himself; however, he can visualize how it should look.

The Mill – A small building in the front is now a cheese shop, there is an antique shop on the 1st floor in the main building below Bill's two floors, and the building on the side was turned into an ice cream shop. In addition, there is a spring fed pond to create how the building looked when the water was flowing through it.

The spring-fed pond

Paoli Schoolhouse Cafe – Bill renovated the original one-room, timber frame schoolhouse that was built in 1854 and rented space to little shops. He then sold it and the buyer turned it into the Paoli Schoolhouse Cafe.

Love everything about this place!

Paoli House – This building was the original town hotel, and Bill turned it into an art gallery with apartments on the 2nd floor. 

Bill is currently retired; however, he hasn't been able to give up the two floors of space he occasionally occupies, even though he has had many offers to rent it out. I can see why, because it's so extraordinary that it could inspire a fly.

Additionally, Bill shared that another Paoli resident, Dana Duppler, likes to save buildings. He saved Fischer Hall, an old dance hall, and plans to renovate it; however, he hasn't decided what to do with it yet. At the moment, it's sitting empty filled with lots of wonderful antiques. Major alterations would need to be done to bring the building up to code.

Imagine the memories in here

What has made you want to stay in the Paoli area?
I have always liked the area. Paoli is always a good place to come. There is no traffic and I can go to Madison if I want to. I like renting to interesting, creative and artistic people. 

Does everyone in town know each other? 
Not like you think. It had been a joke earlier in the day that everyone assumes everyone knows each other and what is going on. I don't really know what is going on the other end of town. The residents may get together to talk about an event, ask how you are doing, but that's it. We know each other, know what the names are, but we don't socialize. We don't all get together and have a BBQ. People assume the opposite. Everyone has their own life and we are void of busy bodies. Supportive of one another, we just don't get involved in each others' lives. 

What would you say to people who don't know anything about Paoli? 
I compare Paoli to New Glarus and consider them a sister city. Whatever New Glarus does is good for us, because people stop here on their way. Paoli is only nine miles from Madison. Once you arrive here, you don't even need to get back in your car. You can walk the whole time. So many different shops and places to eat from high end to bar food. We have big name art to inexpensive art; you can go home with something, but there's no pressure to buy anything.

One thing the town doesn't have is a gas station. I wrote this bumper sticker: Visit Paoli - we've got everything but gas. Only a few people get the joke. We also don't have any stoplights or parking meters. I want people to come to Paoli to enjoy themselves, feel like it was worth the trip, come back, and tell other people. 

Do you think the town is already too competitive in terms of artists? 
No, because these artists are selling their own products and each artist does their own thing. No one is top dog in this town, because everyone lives and works here, and we want it to stay like it is. 

Do you think Paoli can stand to have more growth? 
Growth is good, but controlled growth. There's a thing about growth - we don't need a Kwik Trip and there's a lot of things we don't need. The town can't grow too much, because growing too much takes away from the genuine feeling of it. 

I'm guessing Bill has piqued your interest enough to want to visit Paoli, but if not, here are 10 more reasons:

1)   Cluck the Chicken Store
2)   Artisan Gallery
3)   Paoli House Gallery
4)   Totally Wired
5)   Cottage Goddess
6)   Paoli Secret Garden
7)   Paoli Clay Company
8)   Creamery Cafe
9)   Paoli Pub
10) Paoli Bread & Brat Haus

A plant in a boot? Only at Cluck the Chicken Store.

This cool shop is all about chickens.

So charming!

Double chocolate cheesecake from Bread & Brat Haus.

Rumor has it the Pub & Grill has the best fish fry.

Beauty surrounds the Sugar River.

This shop is full of remarkable items.

Quirky and gorgeous pieces inside this upscale gallery.

I feel like I have made a new friend. I highly recommend visiting this quaint, engaging town. There is no better place to escape the the hustle and bustle of every day life.


  1. What a wonderful little hamlet! Thanks for sharing. The pictures tell the story of the town.

  2. So sorry that I didn't see this comment until now Mike! Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words. It's greatly appreciate:)