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Bandon's last link to cheese shuttered.

Byline: Winston Ross The Register-Guard

BANDON - This town's last link to its handmade-cheese-making history was severed on Tuesday, when the Tillamook County Creamery Association locked the doors of the Bandon Cheese retail store and laid off its six full-time and five seasonal employees.

The store was a tourist draw because it offered samples of Bandon Cheese, but the product hasn't been manufactured on the South Coast for the past five years. The creamery moved the cheese-making operation to facilities in Boardman and Tillamook after buying the business in 2000.

The creamery association, makers of the well-known Tillamook Cheese, explained its reasoning in a news release Tuesday: "We have struggled to continue operating the retail store in Bandon, but costs for needed repairs to the building simply can't be justified based on the store's sales," said Jay Allison, the creamery's vice president of sales and marketing.

Creamery spokeswoman Christie Lincoln said that sales had been declining since 2002, and that there have been numerous owners, and closures, in the cheese plant's history.

The plant was built in 1928, Lincoln said, had been heavily damaged by a fire in 1936, and was repaired and rebuilt before opening as the Surfside Dairy in 1937.

The store's employees were offered the chance to apply for open jobs at the creamery, which is based in Tillamook. Those who don't transfer will get severance pay and health benefits through the end of the year, and the company will provide job placement specialists to help find new jobs.

Bandon City Manager Matt Winkel said that he went to a restaurant in town Tuesday and sat near a couple who had come to town to visit the store, only to find it closed.

"Any time you lose an employer, a business, it's important," Winkel said.

Chamber of Commerce director Julie Miller said the latest news wasn't nearly as jarring as the earlier announcement that the company was closing down local cheese production.

"They really weren't more than a glorified quick mart at this point," she said. "The real trauma came when they quit making cheese in Bandon."

Tillamook will continue to produce Bandon brand cheese and sell it in grocery stores in the Northwest, Lincoln said. The creamery has no current plans for the building but is willing to work with the city on future uses. "We have expressed interest in being a part of the Bandon Woolen Mill project," Lincoln said.

The farmer-owned cooperative's popularity in town plummeted in late 2003 when news broke that the company was warning businesses in Bandon and Tillamook that the creamery had trademarked both names and that it was inappropriate for some companies to use the names in their own brands.

The dispute culminated in a federal lawsuit filed by the Tillamook Jerky company, resolved only after a judge affirmed the jerky maker's right to keep using the name Tillamook in February 2004.

Winston Ross can be reached at (541) 902-9030 or rgcoast@oregon fast.net.
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Title Annotation:Business; The town's retail store closes down five years after the creamery moved away
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Oct 5, 2005
Words:495
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