BANDON — Anticipation filled the air as more than 400 people gathered Wednesday afternoon to welcome the new Face Rock Creamery.
“This is a 14-month project, and we completed it in six months and 15 days,” said Daniel Graham, construction supervisor and vice president. Graham listed and thanked all the local contractors who were hired for the project.
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 added that the creamery wouldn’t be in Bandon without the support of many people and the encouragement of the public.
“It was a lot of work — it’s been over two years in the making and with a lot of ups and downs,” he said.
Drobot used his own and private money to finance the $2.2 million, 8,000-square-foot facility. 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.
Mayor Mary Schamehorn agreed.
“It was a great public-private partnership between Greg and the city’s urban renewal agency,” Schamehorn said. “I think it’s going to be a big boost for Bandon.”
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 they could attract a developer to build a new cheese factory.
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.”
Others were equally excited.
“I think this is the best thing to happen in Bandon in 10 years,” said Jeff Stitt of Bandon.
Julie Heron of Coos Bay recalled visiting the former cheese factory.
“I remember when they used to put out a green flag saying they had fresh curds,” she said. “I hope they do that again.”
Katy Downard of Bandon, who works at First American Title just past 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.