Big cheese comes back to Bandon

By: Amy Moss Strong - Sep 20, 2012
Source: Bandon Western World
Not only has developer Greg Drobot restored faith in Bandon residents that cheese making once again can be part of Bandon’s economy, he has now frosted the cake.

Drobot has hired former Bandon cheese factory head cheesemaker Brad Sinko to oversee the cheese making operations at Face Rock Creamery — on the same site where Sinko worked as cheesemaker prior to leaving the area nine years ago when the factory closed down.

But leaving the area has been good to Brad Sinko. He was hired by Beecher’s Handmade Cheese owner Kurt Beecher Dammeier to help set up the artisan cheese factory in Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

Sinko has been instrumental in developing the award-winning cheese produced at Beecher’s. His Flagsheep cheese, made from sheep and cow’s milk, just won best of show out of more than 1,700 entries from the U.S., Canada and Mexico in the 2012 American Cheese Society competition. Many of his other artisan cheeses also have won in national competitions.

Drobot said he has been talking with Brad Sinko for a number of months. Brad learned the business from the ground up from his father Joe Sinko, who is working with Drobot as a consultant for Face Rock Creamery.

After receiving his degree in microbiology from Oregon State University, Brad went to work for his father at the Bandon Cheese Factory. By 1995, he was successfully managing the entire operation. For five years he also owned and ran a microbrewery in Bandon.

In addition to Beecher’s in Seattle, Sinko also helped set up Beecher’s second store in New York City.

“I consider Brad the best cheese maker in America,” Drobot said. “It’s a pretty big deal to get him back to Bandon.”

Sinko will be in Bandon by mid-October. He and his wife Sarah and son Max, 15, will be relocating from Port Orchard, Wash. He also has a son, Nick, 23. 

“Brad wants to rebuild the legacy he built with his dad,” Drobot said. “We were able to pay him a competitive salary and he still has ties to Bandon. He met his wife here and his parents are here. It was almost perfect timing. When he agreed to come on board I was floating on top of the world.”

Drobot said Sinko created all of Beecher’s artisan cheese recipes and he plans to allow him free reign in setting up and running the factory. The deal might include a partial ownership opportunity down the road.

“I’m not going to micro-manage,” Drobot said. “When you have somebody as good as Brad, you don’t want to get in the way. You let him do his thing.”

Sinko will work with the factory’s layout, help source equipment and dairies, line up production timing and get everything ready to go, Drobot said. 

Construction will begin soon, he added, as soon as a few last permits are obtained. The first thing people will see is a large amount of fill being hauled to the site. The ground must be raised four inches to comply with Federal Emergency Management Agency requirements for properties within flood plains. Sewer and conduits will then be placed.

“It’s going to be huge having Brad,” Drobot said. “Just to have his name and someone of his caliber will be tremendous and not just for our company, but for Bandon too. I’m really excited to have him on board.”

Drobot isn’t the only one who’s excited. Joe and Karen Sinko could barely contain themselves when called.

“I’m on top of the world,” Joe Sinko said. “Brad has had a good opportunity with Beecher’s, but his heart has been here in Bandon. He loved it here and I think it’s going to work out for everyone.”

“Brad is quite a bit more than just a cheesemaker,” Sinko added. “He knows the ins and outs of the business, from the farm right up to sales and marketing and the whole ball of wax. We’re not just getting a cheesemaker, we’re getting a man who can back up Greg.”

As far as cheesemaking, Joe Sinko agrees that Brad is well known.

“He’s probably the premier cheesemaker in the United States,” Joe said. “And this is the coop of the century to get him down here.”

For his part, Brad also is pleased with the deal.

“I’m very excited to come back home and have this opportunity to resurrect cheese making in Bandon,” he said.