Tricky Treats

By Lily Mihelich

Opening a business at the age of 23 isn’t incredibly common — but Therese Merkel-Hamadi is defying those odds. Her specialty food business, Tricky Foods, has steadily grown since she founded it in 2020.

Merkel-Hamadi graduated from UW-Whitewater in 2018 and worked at Epic for a few years post-college. She always had an interest in food, and during the pandemic, she started experimenting with charcuterie boards. Her hobby eventually pushed her to take the leap and quit her job to open her own business.

“I learned it all as I went. I’ve learned a lot since then [about] color palette, placement and food styling!” says Merkel-Hamadi.

Her playful food business offers decadent charcuterie and cheeses, grazing tables for events and charcuterie workshops. In 2023, Tricky Foods moved into a ground-floor retail space in The Post, a luxury apartment building on Lakeside Street. The new spot, which is open five days a week, hosts events (including crafting classes, speed dating functions and more) and has a wine and beer bar. People can also book the space for private events, such as parties and work functions, for up to 50 people.

Merkel-Hamadi augments her charcuterie and snack options with goodies from other specialty food businesses — including Miggy’s Bakes, Elegant Foods, Vicki Cookies, Gotham Bagels and Potter’s Crackers.

Philanthropy is baked into the business, and Tricky Foods has donated product, time and money to community organizations that specialize in youth development, community wellness and health care.

Her ultimate goal? To franchise her concept, sharing her Instagrammable treats with an even wider audience.

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