BANDON — After a 10-year absence, cheese making made its return to this coastal community in 2013 and now this week a celebration is being planned to recognize a successful first year of production and sales.
But this is not the Bandon Cheese Factory, a landmark alongside Highway 101 in the middle of this town for more than 70 years. That business was shuttered in 2003, a couple of years after being purchased by the Tillamook cheese company. The old building was razed, leaving a gravel lot.
Now at that same Highway 101 site there is a new two-story building and a new name — Face Rock Creamery.
“I don’t think it is overstating it to say we’re ecstatic to be here,” said Brad Sinko, the head cheese maker for Face Rock. “It had been a gravel pit here for years, an eyesore. We now have a beautiful building here. We’re making cheese again, and we’re proud of it again.”
The creamery owners are Greg Drobot, company president, and Daniel Graham, the vice-president. The business has 25 full- and part-time employees.
Sinko said Face Rock produced 225,000 pounds of cheese in its first year and the business’ goal is to double that total in the second year. About six flavors of cheese are sold commercially in about 350 stores from the West Coast states east to Wyoming. Twelve flavors are offered for sale in the Face Rock retail store that sits next to the cheese production area.
The creamery makes cheese every other day, including weekends, and uses 28,000 pounds of milk each day. The Milky Way Farm of Coquille provides most of that milk, and the Wheeler Farm of Arago provides the rest.
“A start-up always has its bumps, but I think we’re doing quite well,” said Sinko, who was born in Roseburg.
Sinko is no stranger to Bandon or to its cheese tradition. His father, Joe Sinko, was a co-owner of Bandon Cheese, and Brad Sinko grew up in the business and has a lifetime of experience making cheese. The son worked for his father at Bandon Cheese until it closed and then was the head cheese maker for Beecher’s Handmade Cheese in Seattle for 10 years before being lured back to Bandon.
“I had a premier cheese-making job in the country, so I thought long and hard about it, but I love Bandon, and I thought it was a damn shame the old Bandon factory went away,” Brad Sinko said. “I had family here, and I was excited to help build up Face Rock and to make the best cheddar in the nation here.”
He explained that aged cheddar will soon be on the shelf because that cheddar must sit in cold storage for 12 months. Extra-aged cheddar is in cold storage for 18 months.
Giving Sinko the opportunity to return to Bandon were Drobot and Graham, the developers who worked with the city of Bandon to bring cheese production back to the community.
Establishing an urban renewal agency, the city partnered with Drobot and Graham. The city, which owns the property, developed the parking lot and surrounding grounds that would also provide for future businesses. The developers had the building constructed and established the new business. The backside of the building includes public restrooms that are owned by the city, and that facility and the grounds are a designated rest area.
The partnership was recognized for its cooperative efforts last year when it was presented the League of Oregon Cities Award for Excellence by the state of Oregon.
“Everybody in town wanted the cheese factory back,” Graham said. “We appreciate all the support we’ve received from everybody.”
The new Face Rock building offers display cases of cheese products with samples. There are also some other food and beverage products, mainly from the area, that are displayed and for sale.
Across one wall of the retail area is an ice cream and a deli counter that offers lunch items such as soups and sandwiches. In the middle of the retail area is a small bar where local wines can be tasted. There are tables and chairs for dining on the ground floor and also seating on a second floor.
Wide and tall windows across the back of the retail area allows visitors to watch cheese making.
Face Rock Creamery will celebrate its one-year anniversary with specials, prizes and live music on Saturday and Sunday.
“We’re definitely a different place than the old Bandon plant,” Graham said. “Our goal is to make the finest upper-end cheddar in the world.”
• News-Review business reporter Craig Reed can be reached by calling 541-957-4210 or by email at email@example.com.