BANDON -- It's a moment of redemption for many in Bandon, including city officials, who have mourned the loss of the cheese factory since it closed several years ago.
Hand-cheddared two-pound loaves of sharp, medium and mild cheese, cheese curds and five to seven types of specialty cheeses will once again be made in Bandon, possibly as soon as next February.
At a special meeting last week, the City Council approved the terms of a lease with a developer who plans to build a new cheese factory at the site of the former Bandon Cheese Factory.
Cheese samples, including the ever-popular 'squeaky cheese," ice cream, wine and gifts also will all be available at the 6,000-square-foot facility.
The only thing that it won't have is the name 'Bandon."
But Face Rock Creamery LLC owner Greg Drobot is excited about the new venture and hopes to begin construction as early as June, he said the meeting. He plans to put at least $2 million into the project.
Drobot, son of Michael Drobot, who built The Colony condominiums on Beach Loop Drive at the site of the former Ocean View Care Center, has hired the consulting expertise of Joe Sinko, former owner of the Bandon Cheese Factory and an expert cheesemaker, for advice on how to set up the new factory, down to the types of cheese to make. Drobot said Sinko will consult during the entire building process until the factory is up and running, probably about a year.
A master cheesemaker has not yet been hired, but Drobot said he is negotiating with a few prospects.
Sinko's son, Brad Sinko, is head cheesemaker at Beecher's Handmade Cheese in Seattle's Pike Place Market. Brad Sinko also recently set up a new Beecher's factory in Manhattan, New York. Drobot said Brad Sinko will not be the new cheesemaker, but declined comment when asked if that person might be someone else from Beecher's.
Drobot said the cheese will be made using the hand-cheddaring process that was a selling point at the former factory. The process will use pasteurized milk from cows that have not been treated with BST, a common bovine hormone. The milk will come from dairies in the Coquille Valley, he said.
Drobot anticipates the new factory will employ at least 10 people, mostly full-time positions, in addition to construction employment. He hopes even more jobs will eventually be created by the venture.
Face Rock Creamery will utilize its own funds and private financing to construct and operate the cheese factory.
Under the terms of the lease, the rent will be waived by the city for Face Rock Creamery for 20 years. In lieu of rent, the tenant will pay 1 percent of any gross revenues between $1 million and $2.5 million and 2 percent of any gross revenues more than $2.5 million.
The business also will pay the city $40 per month based on an approximate 400-square-foot portion that represents the area the facility will use to feature non-cheese items. City Manager Matt Winkel said that amount was set to make the agreement fair to other businesses who sell similar gift merchandise.
In addition, the cheese factory will be responsible for cleaning, maintaining and furnishing supplies for the adjacent public restrooms which, along with a pubic parking lot, will be constructed with Bandon urban renewal funds.
In August 2011, the Bandon urban renewal agency paid Tillamook Cheese $500,000 for the two acres of property where the Bandon cheese factory was formerly located. The property had been purchased by Tillamook Cheese from Bandon Cheese in 2000.
The cheese factory was closed in 2002, although Tillamook Cheese continued to operate a retail store at that location until 2005, when it was also closed and the remaining employees laid off. The buildings on the property fell into a poor state of repair, and they were subsequently demolished.
'The city is very excited about the prospect of again having a cheese factory in Bandon, and feels this project is a perfect example of the ideal public-private partnership," Winkel said.
The project involves public financing of the public facilities, such as the public parking lot and public restrooms, and private financing of the construction, operation and maintenance costs of the cheese factory.
'It will result in more public parking, restrooms for tourist visitors, additional tourist attractions to benefit existing local businesses, additional private sector job opportunities for local residents, an inducement for other manufacturing businesses to locate and create jobs in this area, increased City revenues and reduced cost for Bandon taxpayers," Winkel said.
Now that the new cheese factory project is moving forward, private developers have contacted the city regarding the possibilities of constructing a brewery and developing other manufacturing and retail businesses on that property, Winkel added.
'This is something that we have all been waiting for since Tillamook purchased, closed down, and then tore down our cheese factory, which was the No. 1 tourist attraction in the community," said Mayor Mary Schamehorn. 'This is definitely a win-win for Bandon."