Mt. Townsend Creamery shutting down

Carmen Jaramillo
Posted 1/22/20

Award winning regional cheese crafters at Mt. Townsend Creamery will be shutting down their equipment for the very last time Jan. 31 after the business announced last week it will no longer be able to continue operation.

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Mt. Townsend Creamery shutting down


Award winning regional cheese crafters at Mt. Townsend Creamery will be shutting down their equipment for the very last time Jan. 31 after the business announced last week it will no longer be able to continue operation.

Ryan Trail and partner Matthew Day opened the business in April 2006 at the Sherman Street location, a former DMV office.

Trail said the plan had always been to eventually move to a different facility and increase production, but different factors like shrinking profit margins, failing infrastructure at the Sherman Street factory, and increased cost and volatility in the dairy market made them take pause.

All that eventually led to today. Trail said it’s not possible to continue into the business’ lean season with the amount they have in reserves.

The company had purchased a vacant lot on Rainier Street with the intention of building a perfect facility where they could produce more cheese in a facility designed for cheese making from the beginning. That reality, however, was always just slightly out of grasp.

“Running the creamery is like driving a car down the road while trying to change a tire at the same time,” Trail said.

Declines in the dairy industry over the last five years contributed to the decision to forgo increasing production. Trail said the milk used to make the cheese is from one of the only dairy farms left on the Olympic Peninsula, Maple View Farms.

In 2018 alone, 2,700 dairy farms closed across the U.S., while many more are feeling the weight of a changing industry. Trail said they saw it didn’t make sense to increase the scale of their production if there could ever be a possibility of supply shortages.

If for any reason Maple View Farm was not able to supply milk to Mt. Townsend, milk would need to be shipped from across the Puget Sound or as far south as Chehalis, which then creates a new host of issues.

Trail said Maple View Farm  will not be affected by the Mt. Townsend closure because they are part of a dairy cooperative that guarantees them sales.

Another issue was the regulatory standards required by the federal government. Trail said they were required to match the standards applied to mass production operations like Tillamook Creamery in Oregon.

The company was always able to meet those standards, he said, but the time and resources it required for sampling, analysing and testing with their staffing was a strain.

“Cheese is such a difficult industry,” he said. “It’s high risk, scientific but also artisan.”

Other local businesses like the Chimacum Corner Farm Stand and Pane D’Amore Bakery have long sold Mt. Townsend cheese in their storefronts.

Jacob Nachel, cheese buyer at the Chimacum Corner Farm Stand said they have sold Mt. Townsend cheese since they first opened nine years ago. They were disappointed when they heard the creamery would be closing. He said of all the local cheeses they sell, Cirrus of Mt. Townsend was in the running for their best selling wheel.

“They are such a great force in the community,” he said. “And they make such wonderful cheese.”

The business also fell victim to the housing market boom and affordable housing shortage which affects the whole county.

Trail described a problem which is echoed in many local industries like restaurants and healthcare: there is no place for workers to live. He said there were times when people who had already agreed to accept positions at the company were unable to follow through because they could not find reliable housing. That, coupled with increasing labor costs to reflect the rising cost of living, has affected many businesses.

Trail said he is proud of how far his business has come and that it couldn’t have been done without the help of the Port Townsend community.

He said he and his team have been overwhelmed with the public response since their public Facebook announcement of the closure Jan. 14. The post currently stands with hundreds of comments, reactions and shares.

The next step is to make sure the final months go smoothly, he said. He wants the company to finish strong and his 15 full-time employees to land on their feet.

Derek Jonsson, who has worked at Mt. Townsend Creamery producing cheese for five years, said he feels the business closing is a big loss to the community not just for its unique character and notoriety but for its employment.

Cheese production is still underway until Jan. 31.

The retail store will stay open through at least February, he said, as long as they have stock to sell.


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