Living the American dream

Indy and Pete Cheema smile by a wine display. The couple purchased Malchetske’s on Broadway in 2004. submitted photo

by Joe Schulz

For the last 16 years, Indy Cheema has been living the American dream. 

She came to the United States from India 33 years ago, not expecting to one day own a business in Berlin. 

But in 2004, Indy and her husband, Pete, purchased Malchetske’s on Broadway, giving Indy the opportunity to achieve a lifelong dream.

This summer, she’s celebrating 16 years of running the liquor store with a wine tasting Monday, Aug. 24 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

The event gives folks an opportunity to get to know the Cheemas as they try an array of wines and cheeses.

“It’s fun to have people taste things before they buy them because we have such a selection and people may not know if they like something without trying it,” Indy said of the event. 

While the Cheemas are happy to be successful small business owners, getting to this point was a longtime coming. 

In 1981, Pete moved to the United States from India. His brothers already were here and had invited him to come and work odd jobs. 

The entire time Pete was in America, he stayed in contact with Indy, who remained in India, waiting for a visa.

After finding a more permanent job working for Westinghouse Electric Corp., he briefly returned to India in 1986 to marry Indy before coming back to the United States.

The next year, after waiting four years for a U.S. visa, Indy finally joined Pete in America. The two started a family, and Indy began dreaming of becoming a business owner. 

By 2004, the family had relocated from Milwaukee to Appleton, and Pete was working for Eaton Corp. 

The Cheemas’ children had grown to the point that Indy no longer needed to be home all day watching them, so the couple decided to purchase the building at 265 Broadway St. in Berlin.

“I was a stay-at-home mom, so I wanted something to do,” Indy said. “He still has his full time job, so this was something for me [to do].”

The Malchetske’s on Broadway business originally was owned by brothers Tom and Bob Malchetske, who owned a liquor store at a different location.

Before becoming a liquor store, the building served a variety of ventures, including a harness and carriage shop as well as a car and radiator repair station. Joe Schulz photo 

In 1995, the brothers had outgrown their initial establishment, so they purchased and renovated the Broadway Street location. 

Before it was a liquor store, the building served a variety of ventures, including a harness and carriage shop as well as a car and radiator repair station, according to the Berlin Historical Society. 

After purchasing the building, Indy and Pete relocated to Berlin in 2006 and haven’t made too many changes to Malchetske’s business model. 

Indy explained the main change  was discontinuing the store’s one-hour photo service, as the growth of cell phones led to fewer people printing pictures.

Over the years, she’s tried to keep the store’s selection of wines, beer and spirits as wide as possible to meet the needs of a shifting consumer base and to support local breweries and wineries. 

“It feels really good because I’m servicing the community,” Indy said of the last 16 years. 

Back in March, when Wisconsin’s statewide Safer-at-Home order went into effect, Malchetske’s was allowed to remain open, however, the store did limit its hours and install a Plexiglas barrier in front of the cash register. 

Since the pandemic began, Indy noted alcohol sales have increased, but keg sales have decreased.

For example, she said sales on microbrews, alcoholic seltzers and locally produced beers, wines and spirits have increased, while demand for Malchetske’s beer wagon has ground to a halt due to event cancellations. 

“Usually, in the summer, the beer wagon would be rented almost every weekend,” Indy said. “But not anymore.”

Even so, the beer wagon is being utilized by the The Boys & Girls Club of the Tri-County Area for food storage. 

“We’re happy that the community can put it to use,” Indy said. 

Even with the recent uncertainty caused by the pandemic, her favorite part of running the business has been being the place that has almost anything a customer desires when it comes to adult beverages. 

“I love when somebody walks in and they ask, ‘Do you have that?’ and I say, ‘Yes’ because they get so excited,” Indy said. “I even got a call one day from someone in California who asked for something. We couldn’t ship it, but he said he’d stop by if he was ever in the area. We have one customer who drives here from Peshtigo because he can’t find what he’s looking for anywhere else.”

Beyond making customers smile by providing the perfect beverage for any occasion, the business has given Indy something to do while watching her family grow. 

Her son works for Malchetske’s, as did her daughter before going to medical school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and becoming a physician’s assistant. 

Indy’s enjoyed watching her business and family develop, but she may be walking away from the business in a few years. 

“My husband is retiring in a couple years so it might change after that,” she said of the store’s future. 

Even so, Indy remains proud of everything she’s been able to accomplish since purchasing Malchetske’s on Broadway 16 years ago.