Nonprofit helps make creamery a reality

By: Amy Moss Strong - Dec 20, 2012
Source: Bandon Western World

Craft3 helps factory top $2M investment

Craft3 announced earlier this month that its investment in Face Rock Creamery in Bandon is the final piece of financing needed to complete the construction of the new cheese factory.

The Face Rock Creamery cheese factory is expected to bring back a heritage industry along with local jobs and tourism dollars. Local residents are excited for the new factory, which is under construction at same site as the former Bandon Cheese factory.

For 62 years, the Bandon Cheese factory drew travelers to the Bandon. But just two years after buying it in 2000, Tillamook County Creamery, a larger cheese maker located up the coast from Bandon, closed and demolished the Bandon factory. The abandoned site was an eyesore and the community immediately began lobbying to bring a cheese factory back to Bandon.

“It was extremely sad.” Mayor Mary Schamehorn said. “People still today come in and say, ‘Where’s the cheese factory?’”

City leaders backed local developer Greg Drobot’s idea to open a new cheese factory to be called Face Rock Creamery. Together they drew on the extensive expertise of Joe Sinko, former owner of Bandon Cheese and long-time friend of Craft3.

The group approached Brad Sinko for help. In addition to being Joe’s son and third generation Bandon dairyman, Brad is one of the top artisanal cheese makers in the country.

He was instrumental in the start up of Beecher’s Cheese in Seattle and a satellite Beecher’s Cheese in New York City. Brad will be Face Rock’s head cheese maker and operations manager.

Drobot had the right team in place. But there were problems securing financing to make the project a reality. Start-up capital for rural businesses is hard to find.

“The banks are extremely difficult to deal with if you’re a startup, and unless you’re a business with a long track record of financials it is damn near impossible to get a loan,” Drobot said.

That is when he learned about Craft3, a nonprofit lender. Craft3 specializes in lending to businesses unable to access financing from traditional sources.
Craft3 is providing Drobot with loans for the construction of the cheese factory and retail store and to purchase production and retail equipment. Drobot also received money from the Port of Bandon’s Business Development fund administered through the Coos Curry Douglas Business Development Corp. and from Business Oregon, a business development fund based in Salem. In all, some $2 million is being invested into the project.

“These three funders are helping purchase construction and equipment, along with a significant amount of my own equity,” Drobot said. “If it wasn’t for these investors, I wouldn’t have been able to do this project. I’m glad those opportunities were there.”

Craft3 executive vice president Adam Zimmerman is pleased with the investment.

“We are excited to support Greg and his efforts to bring a cheese factory back to Bandon,” Zimmerman said. “The addition of Face Rock Creamery to the community will strengthen the economic resilience of the region.”

The 8,000-square-foot cheese factory will include a viewing gallery, a retail shop, and small restaurant. Face Rock Creamery will be the cornerstone of a tourist-stop redevelopment project to rejuvenate downtown Bandon, according to City Manager Matt Winkel.

“This is something that we have all been waiting for since Tillamook purchased, closed down, and then torn down our cheese factory, which was the No. 1 tourist attraction in the community,” said Schamehorm. “This is definitely a win-win for Bandon.”

Construction update Construction on Face Rock Creamery is moving at a steady pace. Even in the cold rain and wind, crews have been working. Drobot has hired as many local contractors as possible.

Craig Paulson and Bandon Concrete poured the foundation and the steel structural supports are being put into place. Framing will follow. Avery Plumbing also has been hired.

“We have as many local people as we can on site,” Drobot said. “The majority of the contractors and sub-contractors are local.

Once the framing gets going, things will really begin to take shape, Drobot said, adding that the framing will take about six to seven weeks.

“We are still on target for a spring opening, in April or May,” he said.

Meanwhile, Drobot and Face Rock Creamery head cheesemaker Brad Sinko have been making cheese in a leased area of the Rogue Creamery to make cheese for the Face Rock Creamery.

“We will be making cheese once a month in Central Point until March so we will have cheese on the shelves when we open,” Drobot said. “After that, we’ll move all our inventory into the new factory.”

Drobot said he has enjoyed learning about the cheese-making process. So far, he and Sinko have made 2,000 pounds of cheese and plan to have 10,000 to 12,000 pounds when Face Rock Creamery opens.

“Brad has been a great instructor, he told me what to do,” Drobot said of the cheesemaking.

“It’s hard work flipping those curds! I got a good workout.”