BANDON — Anticipation filled the air as more than 400 people gathered Wednesday afternoon to welcome the new Face Rock Creamery, a state-of-the-art cheese-making facility that returns a staple industry to this Southern Oregon coastal town.
Cheese production, once famous in Bandon, halted in 2000, a couple of years after the Tillamook County Creamery Association bought the former factory. The building was demolished in 2002. Two years ago, the city bought the lot from Tillamook using urban renewal money with the idea it could attract a developer to build a new cheese factory.
10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
680 Second St. S.E. on U.S. Highway 101 in Bandon
"It was a great public-private partnership," Mayor Mary Schamehorn said during Wednesday's festivities. "I think it's going to be a big boost for Bandon."
The Bandon Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon-cutting, and the creamery treated visitors to food outside the facility, as well as cheese samples inside.
People tasted fresh "squeaky" cheese curds in multiple styles: plain and spicy three pepper, Face Rock Monterey Jack, In Your Face cheddar, spicy three-pepper cheddar, Vampire Slayer garlic cheddar and a special "Grand Opening cheddar." High-end cultured butter will be available soon.
Creamery President Greg Drobot praised the facility and cheese maker Brad Sinko. "We tried to get the best facility to make the best cheese, and I think we have one of the best cheese makers, if not the best, here," Drobot said. "Bandon cheese is going to be known as some of the best cheese in the world."
Drobot used his own and private money to finance the $2.2 million, 8,000-square-foot building. The city is the creamery's landlord and paid to build public restrooms next-door.
Drobot said he was able to fund the venture because of loans from Craft3, the Port of Bandon Economic Development Fund, the Oregon Business Development Fund, and Coos Curry Douglas Development Corp. "There was a lot of teamwork to get this together," he said.
After groundbreaking in August and construction beginning in October, Drobot announced he had hired Brad Sinko, son of former Bandon cheese factory owner Joe Sinko, as head cheese maker. The younger Sinko began his career at his father's factory and made a name for himself at Beecher's Handmade Cheese in Seattle's Pike Place Market. He has won major awards for his cheese, an accomplishment Drobot predicts will continue at Face Rock.
Along with Face Rock cheese, other local products available at the factory include clothing with the creamery's logo, Northwest cheeses, Coastal Mist Chocolates, Misty Meadows Jams, Hazel's Cranberry Catsup, Raven Soaps, Northwest wines and beers, and even a recently released historical book about Bandon.
Wednesday, people slowly filed into the building to taste and buy cheese and generous scoops of Umpqua Dairy ice cream.
Drobot and Joe Sinko cheerfully served cones alongside employees. Sinko and his crew could be seen making cheese curds behind heavy glass. People came from all over the county for the opening. "I stood in line for almost an hour," said Stephanie Kilmer of Coos Bay. "This is so exciting."
Kilmer grew up in Coos Bay and visited the former cheese factory on family outings. "I think this is a remarkable step, especially considering the economy, to have something so positive," Kilmer added. "This will be huge for Bandon and for the area."
Katy Downard of Bandon, who works at First American Title near the creamery, said her office has fielded inquires for years from people asking what happened to the cheese factory. "We're so glad it's back," she said.
Amy Moss Strong is Bandon editor for The World in Coos Bay. Reach her at Amy.Moss-Strong@theworldlink.com or 541-347-2423.