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Just dropping by: Wagner Market

Though most known for its meat selection, the market has craft beers, Wisconsin cheeses and grows hydroponic lettuce in the basement

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July 12, 2023

T5JZVJ2-t4cOSHKOSH – Those craving gummy bears and bratwurst at the same time might want to consider making a trip to downtown Oshkosh.

Wagner Market, located at 502 N. Main St., has a little bit of everything – including gummy bear brats.

And the “unique flavors” don’t stop there.

Other options include the Bloody Mary, Door County Cherry, Jamaican Me Crazy, Mac N Cheese, Taco, Wild Rice Mushroom and Raspberry Chipotle – just to name a few.

Finding myself in Winnebago County on this Just dropping by trip, I gave brat spinning a go.

The prep work was handled by Wagner Market Butcher Hector Hernandez.

He mixed the meat and stuffed it into a casing using a machine – it looked like a giant snake coming out of the stuffer!

After watching Hernandez spin a few brats, it was my turn – pinch, spin forward, pinch, spin backward, repeat – those were my instructions.

“You did a nice job,” Hernandez said. “I might trim a few of them, but we’ll put them in the case to sell.”


If you’re wondering, I followed all health and safety protocols and wore rubber gloves in the brat-making process!

It’s fun to think about what I’ve done in the Just dropping by series so far – made a candle, constructed a sample tile board, rode a horse and now made a brat.

Just call me a jack of many trades.

More on Wagner Market
Though it’s probably most famous for its meat selection, Wagner Market has much more to offer.

“We also have more than 800 craft beers available, 100-plus Wisconsin cheeses and grow our own hydroponic lettuce in the basement,” Co-owner Kris Larson said.

So, for the second time in the Just dropping by series, I headed to a basement.

If you recall, during episode No. 1, I headed to the Algoma Candle Company – which operates out of Matthew Fay’s basement.

“The nearer the source of our food is to us, the better it is,” Larson said. “It’s less time in a truck, less packaging, etc. It means better food for you and better money for our local economy. This lettuce is as pure as you can get it – it’s touched by no one but the consumer when they take it home.”

Though lettuce is the preferred choice vegetable, Larson said Wagner Market also grows tomatoes.

“We can go from seed to harvest in about five weeks,” he said. “We’ve been doing this for about seven years total, and we have about 180 heads of lettuce growing at once. Usually, we can keep up with the demand. People tell us all the time they like the lettuce.”

Larson said growing the lettuce in the basement has several benefits.
“This way, we can control the nutrients it gets, the humidity and water,” he said. “It’s a controlled environment.”

Larson said being located in downtown Oshkosh is a “no-brainer.”

“I think to have a proper downtown, you need a downtown market,” he said. “The stats show about 18,000 people call the central part of the city home. Before we arrived about eight years ago, there was no walkable grocery store. This market is different than other bigger stores – we might not have 15 different varieties of tortilla chips, but we have the best tortilla chips.” 

How did Wagner Market get its name?

“You are standing in Oshkosh’s very first opera house built by William Wagner,” Larson said. “The building you’re standing in now was built in 1874, but it burned down twice before that in the two great fires of Oshkosh. The third time it was rebuilt, the instructions to the architect were to make sure it couldn’t burn down again – that’s why you see so much concrete in here.” 

Larson said though it was built to be an opera house, that never materialized. 

“The second he built it, the Methodist Church approached him and said they needed it for a church,” he said. “He sold the building to them, and they were here for 99 years until they built another church across town.” 

Brats galore
Head chef and co-owner Mike Buckarma said Wagner Market offers a “brat of the month” special.

“We give a part of the proceeds to the Oshkosh Kids Foundation,” he said. “Usually, it ends up between $1,800-$2,400 per year in donations. We are going on our third year doing this.”

Buckarma explained why Wagner Market has “so many weird brat flavors.”

From left, Mike Buckarma and Sarrah and Kris Larson own and operate Wagner Market. Maya Hearden Photo

“We are chefs at heart and chefs by trade, so we like to be creative,” he said. “In June, it was a root beer and bacon combination. Last Halloween, we used Reese’s Pieces and candy corn. Another one that stands out – we did Mexican Hot Chocolate for Christmas.”

Buckarma said Wagner Market’s most popular brat choice is Pineapple Teriyaki.

“That’s followed closely by beer and cheese – this is Wisconsin after all,” he said.

Hope Fridge
More than just a one-stop shop, Larson said Wagner Market also believes in doing its part to help the local community.

With a bus stop located directly in front of the market, and within walking distance of the central part of the city and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Wagner Market recently began hosting a “Hope Fridge” behind the store to provide free food to those who may need it most – whenever they see fit.

In addition to the one at Wagner Market, there are currently two other Hope Fridge locations in the Fox Valley area – one in Neenah at 160 Curtis Ave. and another at Bowenstreet Repeats, 2837 Bowen St., Oshkosh.

“It’s stocked with fresh, cold food and non-perishable food,” Larson said. “You can also find some household goods like diapers, socks and soap.”

Larson said Hope Fridge is a mutual aid project.

“We are not a charity or a nonprofit,” he said. “We are community operated and maintained, and we are open every day of the year to every person, regardless of their circumstances and without qualifiers.”

To learn more about Hope Fridge and to sign up for 15-minute fridge manager/cleaning shifts, head to
Want to see Rich try his hand at spinning a brat?

Head to or scan the QR code to view the video and read the rest of the Wagner Market story.

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