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How Cheese Saved an Oregon Town

Face Rock Creamery is bringing jobs back to a small Oregon town 17 years after a cheese factory closed its doors.
Cheese Curds from Face Rock Creamery in Bandon Oregon

For over 100 years, the Bandon Cheese Factory in Bandon, Oregon, was the pride of the town. The cheese brought in the tourists, the factory employed the locals, and the business kept the town afloat.

Then 17 years ago disaster struck. A national competitor, Tillamook Cheese, bought the name, closed the factory, sent the workers home, and most of the surrounding dairy farms went bust.

For nearly 10 years the town’s economy tumbled, the old building lay vacant until it was eventually torn down, and the land was turned into a parking lot. The pride of the town was stripped away.

But eight years ago, three brash young entrepreneurs joined forces to try and reopen the factory. Daniel Graham was a local builder who dreamed of bringing cheese back to Bandon. He used his experience developing condos to recruit Greg Drobot who was a finance guy.

“I think I hung up on him when he called,” Drobot laughed. “I don’t think I was very interested.”

It was the rest of the town that changed his mind. The dairy farmers, the unemployed workers, and the market for Bandon-made cheese were all still in place. When the original master cheese maker, Brad Sinko, agreed to return, Drobot decided all the elements were there for success.

All the elements except for the banks. They weren’t convinced.

By now, however, Drobot was determined and he eventually cobbled together two million dollars from investors. At that point, the business was set to go. They couldn't name it Bandon, since the name had been sold, so they called it Face Rock Creamery, after a local landmark off the coast in the Pacific Ocean.

While the three owners are considered local heroes, Daniel, Greg, and Brad say they really see themselves as businessmen. “I think we all are aware that without making money the business can’t grow and the town can’t thrive,” said Graham. “We want to be here until 2100 and longer.”

So does the local community.