Meet Brad Sinko of Face Rock Creamery

The Face Rock Creamery may be a relatively new business, but it is part of an old and integral tradition in Bandon.  Cheese has been an important part of the town’s history since the 19th century; the industry even survived two major fires in 1914 and 1936 that destroyed much of the town’s infrastructure and architecture.  The Bandon Cheese Factory on Highway 101 was erected in 1937 after the last fire and produced a variety of cheeses.  Residents and visitors enjoyed tours of the factory and its products for many years.


In 2000, the Bandon Cheese Factory was bought by Tillamook, and a few years later, the factory was closed and then destroyed.  Residents mourned its loss, and it looked like Bandon cheese might be gone for good.  In 2011, however, the urban renewal agency of Bandon purchased some of the land previously occupied by the old factory, and plans for the return of cheese were put in place.  A partnership between the city and private investors formed, and Face Rock Creamery was born.


Of course a good cheese company needs a good cheese maker.  Enter Brad Sinko.  Or rather, reenter Brad Sinko.  Born in Oregon and raised mainly in California, Brad attended university at the University of Nebraska, following his father, Joe Sinko, who had opened an ice cream plant in Omaha.  After finishing school at Oregon State University with a degree in fishery science and a minor in microbiology, Brad came to Bandon where his parents were living, and after some time working for the Forest Service and doing some consulting for a fish biologist, he agreed to help his dad for a few days who, at the time owned the Bandon Cheese Factory.  Brad had no idea how quickly he would get hooked, and he eventually ran the place himself.

When Tillamook bought the factory, Brad stayed on and ran it for them for a couple of years, but soon left.  He was doing some consulting in Guatamala when Kurt Beecher Dammeier of Beecher’s Cheeses in Seattle contacted him and invited Brad to work for him as the head cheesemaker.  Brad was flown to Seattle from Guatamala to meet with them and knew it was a done deal the minute he walked in the door.  He was quickly hired and set to designing their
floors and organizing all of the complicated equipment (which he later did at Beecher’s location in New York City as well).  He invented their Flagship cheese, a very specialized cheddar made with a unique culture and process, and won several national awards while there.vampire slayer banner

In the meantime, Greg Drobot came to and fell in love with our fair town of Bandon and decided to revive Bandon’s cheese tradition by opening the Face Rock Creamery.  Naturally, he consulted with Joe Sinko.  Joe encouraged Greg to make Brad an offer to bring him back to Bandon.  Greg was skeptical that Brad would come but made the offer, and Brad, seeing the opportunity to be back in Bandon among family, work with someone like Greg who was excited and interested in the cheesemaking, and be part of an exciting startup where he would have freedom to invent creative artisan cheeses, took it.  He came down with his wife Sarah and their son Max and made Bandon their home.  Together, Brad, Greg, and vice president Daniel Graham opened the doors of the Face Rock Creamery in the spring of 2013.

The Face Rock Creamery was built on the site of the old Bandon Cheese Factory, and Bandon residents were ecstatic to see the rebirth of Bandon cheese.  “It was a godsend,” Brad says.  “You could see a new little skip in people’s steps around here.”

Greg, Daniel, and Brad work exceptionally well together.  At Beechers, Brad saw the owner on the floor only once in ten years.  Greg, however, is often on the floor and has helped make cheese on several occasions.  He and Daniel had a steep learning curve, learning a great deal about cheese making in a short period of time.IMG_1351

As a result of this dynamic team, an incredibly talented master cheese maker, a caring cheese making team, and the support of the community, Face Rock Creamery has had a very successful first 21 months.  In their first year, the Creamery won an award for their Vampire Slayer garlic cheddar cheese, and in the second for the In Your Face curds.  They produced 250,000 pounds of cheese in the first year, over double what Beechers produced in their first year.  They are in 900 stores in five states, and there are courses taught at Utah State University on the adjunct culture addition to cheddars that Brad pioneered.

Brad is very proud of the local sourcing and “ultimate recycling” that happens with his cheese making.  Good cheese has to come from good milk, and he found that at one of the few remaining dairies in Coquille.  Having worked with dairy products for much of his life, he has seen the conditions of many huge dairy operations and has been appalled, so he was happy to find a local dairy with truly happy cows.  After as much whey as possible has been removed from the curds, it goes on a truck and returns to the dairy and fed back to the cows.

IMG_1389Visitors invited onto the floor are in for a treat, as long as they don’t mind signing in, donning a hairnet, and stepping through sanitizing foam on the floor as they walk in, food safety being number one at the Face Rock Creamery.  From the raw milk tank to the all-important pasteurizer, all of the machines used in the process are carefully designed and chosen to make a safe and quality product, and the team making the cheese work together carefully and efficiently.  The large windows from the retail store onto the cheese making floor encourage visitors to observe the process, and it’s an experience everyone should have at some point in their lives.

In the retail side of the Creamery, visitors can enjoy a variety of treats while watching the team make Face Rock cheese.  There are samples galore of cheese and curds, a beer and wine bar where staff can suggest cheese pairing, and Umpqua ice cream being scooped with a “child sized” cone large enough to make any child’s (or adult’s, for that matter) eyes pop.  A large selection of Face Rock Creamery cheeses is available for purchase as well as local products such as jams and cranberry wine, glassware, apparel, kitchen accessories and gifts.  Up the stairs, above the shop, is a lovely view of the Coquille River, the lighthouse and the jetty.IMG_1375

The Creamery’s amazing cheeses include 10 flavors of cheddar (including the award winning “Vampire Slayer”), curds, fromage blanc, and Monterey Jack.  The cheese is also available in several retail locations including Fred Meyer, New Seasons, Market of Choice and Safeway as well as dozens of independent stores, markets and restaurants.  You can also find them at the local markets in Bandon as well as the Eugene Saturday Market and the Coos Bay Farmers’ Market, and they also offer their products at the Cape Blanco Music Festival and other special events.  Products are also available online.

IMG_1374Brad Sinko, Greg Drobot, and Daniel Graham are the dynamic team that brought cheese back to Bandon and make Face Rock Creamery happen, and they have much to be proud of.  It’s not alchemy nor magic that changes raw milk to delicious cheddar, Monterey Jack, curds and fromage blanc, it’s the quality of the milk, the precision of the machines, attention to food safety, and the talent of the humans that brings us the cheese we so quickly fall in love with.

face rock creamery2The details:
Face Rock Creamery
Open daily 9 – 6
680 2nd Street
541.347.3223   OR   541.347.FACE
Find them on Facebook!



Marketing Your Vacation Home

After much thought and planning, you have decided to purchase a vacation rental home, you carefully chose the home, and you furnished it with all the necessary amenities.  You are finally ready to have future guests calling and filling up your calendar.  The next step in keeping your home filled with happy visitors and you with a happy balance is to market it to attract as many bookings as possible.

IMG_1329First, consider whether or not to employ a property manager.  A good property management company’s main responsibility is to get bookings for your home.  They advertise the home, manage calls and emails of interested guests, and keep an accurate calendar to avoid double booking.  They can be well worth the money you pay them.  Look at the websites of the available companies and put yourself in the shoes of renters.  Ask yourself, “Do the homes look attractive?”  “Is the information easy to access?”  “Is it possible to book online?”  Also look at how booked the homes are, and if possible, look through booking history to see if the homes get renters during the slow season as well as the busy season.  Interview them as well to find out just what they will do for you for their monthly or yearly fee.

Online vacation home sites are very popular as well and can save you money if you are willing and able to quickly respond to calls and emails of people wanting to book your home.  People have found that if they old town streetdo not respond right away, they will call another owner, and you will miss their business.  Using these sites also requires organization to keep a calendar and follow up on deposit payments.  Sites like VRBO, HomeAway, and Airbnb cost $300-$800 a year to sign up, but many vacationers use them exclusively when planning their vacations.

Networking with neighbors can increase your bookings.  Oftentimes, guests are traveling with other families or a large group of friends and find themselves in need of more than one home.  If you are in a neighborhood or complex with several vacation rentals, talk and IMG_5121coordinate with your neighbors, and help each other with bookings in each other’s homes.

Vacationers often travel at the same time each year and/or return to the same spot.  Use that information, and offer them a discounted rate if they would like to come back and stay again.

You may consider having a vacation rental blog to help you market your property online.  In a blog, you can post updated pictures and/or videos of your property – both to give visitors an idea of what it looks like, but also of special amenities such as a trail to the beach, sunset views, and updates to your home.  It is also a place you can write about local attractions and events to give potential visitors an idea of what they can do on their vacation.  Get out there in the community yourself and take pictures of shops, trails, restaurants and rivers as IMG_0475well as events such as the town Fourth of July parade or Christmas tree lighting.  To help convince potential renters that renting your home is a good idea, you can include a section about the advantages of renting a home over a hotel room.  Finally, include a Frequently Asked Questions page to address things like parking, cleaning fees, and refund and pet policies.  Through your blog, you can direct traffic to your vacation rental listing if it is listed with a property manager.

Marketing your vacation home properly does take some time and energy.  However, it will lead to increased bookings and the kind of momentum needed to keep your property rented throughout the year.



Get to Know the Bandon Playhouse

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From “Anything Goes” to “South Pacific” to “Steel Magnolias” to “Grease,” the Bandon Playhouse has been entertaining audiences with a wide variety of dramas, comedies, variety shows and musicals for nearly 40 years.

I recently had the pleasure of talking with Ron and Kathie Lecce.  Ron is the president of the Bandon Playhouse board, and his wife Kathie is a board patsy3member as well.  They made their way from California via the Medford area, and when Kathie, who has a theater degree, was hired as the new postmaster in Coos Bay, they began looking for a small town to finish raising their kids.  They decided on Bandon as their home base and feel fortunate to have much of their family still in town and in the area.

The Bandon Playhouse is an integral part of the Bandon community, and there’s much more to running a theatre than one might think!  Ron and Kathie were happy to share with me the history and goals of the Bandon Playhouse as well as its strategies, structure, successes, struggles, and future plans.

On July 26, 1976, some local theater-types, including Sharon Hennick, Tosca Means, and Alice Stadelman got together and decided that Bandon needed a community theater.  Their simple goal was to give live entertainment to the people of Bandon, and within just one year, their first production “Picnic” was on stage in Bandon High School’s cafeteria, regardless of its lacking sound and lighting systems.  Working for many years without a facility of its own, the Playhouse used the high school and then Ocean Crest Elementary School for its shows until they began working with the Lion’s Club on a facility project.  They put their creative and motivated heads together, and the idea for the Sprague Theater was

The Lion’s Club began raising money for a building project, and the design phase began in November, 1996.  Many businesses and individuals in the community stepped up and donated funds, materials and skills for a new theater.  Cardas Audio was a major contributor, not only donating money, but playing an integral role in the planning phase, making design recommendations for maximum amplification of the sound.  The seats were donated by Coquille’s Sawdust Theater which was undergoing renovations, and the seats were then “sold” to donors.  Today one can see name plates commemorating those donors on the back of each seat, and inside the lobby is some beautiful wall art in the shape of a tree, each leaf inscribed with the name of an individual or businesses who donated money to the building of the theater.

beauty & beast 2The creation of the Sprague Theater was truly a community effort.  Beaming just a bit, Ron said, “You could actually call it ‘grass roots’ theater.”

The original plan for the Sprague was for it to be a true community theater, to be used not only for the Bandon Playhouse productions but for other groups as well.  Today, it is also used regularly by the MarLo Dance Studio, New Artists Productions, the Bandon School District, and the Bandon Showcase, and it


is available for groups to rent for large events such as weddings and conventions.

With a building to call home, the Bandon Playhouse continued its goal of providing quality live entertainment to the community.  Early on, they realized they needed to appeal to the diverse interests of the town’s residents and visitors, so they decided to do a variety of productions each year, typically a comedy or drama in February, a comedy or drama in June, a musical in August, and a Christmas production every other year in & beast

For many years now, the Playhouse has kept a fairly regular performance schedule, putting on 3-4 productions a year, but it has had its share of struggles.  For a variety of reasons, they have had to cancel a couple of productions. “It hurts,” Kathie said, “but you have to just try to get on.”  It is also difficult at times to find directors for the productions they’d like to do, and they have had people come up from Coos Bay and even Portland on a couple of occasions to direct.  Although it is very rewarding and well worth it, directing is a big job and is a time commitment.

Putting on a play is a true team effort, and there are many different and very important people involved.  An audience is typically focused on the actors, and many are aware of the presence of the director’s artistic vision, but few think about the incredible work that goes on behind the scenes.  A stage manager alerts waiting actors to the approaching curtain and organizes props, set builders carefully construct scenery, crews tear down the set at the end of each run, and seamstresses carefully alter costumes to fit the actors.  People are also needed to serve as ushers, to run the snack bar, and to be front of the house manager of the night and make sure that all goes well in the lobby.

Businesses in the community give a great deal of help to the theater as well.  Many buy ad space in a play’s program, and others sponsor individual productions.  It has been an important way for businesses to be involved in the greater community and for the theater to get critical financial support.

Everyone is encouraged to get involved in the theater in whatever role they feel comfortable.  When a director is ready to get a production going, the Playhouse puts notices in “The World”, the Coffee Break, and the “Bandon Western World” to call for actors and other volunteers.  Ron encourages everyone to consider how they might get involved.  “The best thing we can tell people is, ‘if you think you’d like it, come out and try it!’”  In an effort to bring in directors, the members of the Playhouse community are happy to support anyone who has an interest in directing, even though they may not have experience.

Becoming a general member of the Playhouse for a $5 annual fee is another way for people to get involved.  Members can attend the meetings on the first bethlehemThursday of each month and give their feedback, suggestions, and input to the board, and membership is a requirement for involvement in a production.  Experience in theater is not a requirement for membership, just an interest in the theater and its success, and the board is always happy for “new blood” to join.  Board members are elected from this group annually.

The Playhouse is looking forward to an exciting future, and they have their 2015 season set and ready to go.  Their first production will be a reader’s theater in June.  A reader’s theater feels somewhat like a radio program where the talented cast, typically small, works without a director and rehearses only a few times before the performance.  They sit with the scripts and read their parts, the audience’s imagination filling in the scenery and action.  In August, the Playhouse is looking forward to putting on the fun musical “Spitfire Grill” with a cast of 6, and in December, they will bring back “Bethlehem Road,” written by Bandon resident Neil Davis.  Since its first run in 2007, Davis has added to and refined the Christmas-themed musical, and we will see a couple new numbers this year.

The Bandon Playhouse has kept its goal to produce diverse shows, and its productions have always been high quality.  They’re all very proud of the work they’ve done, from popular musicals such as “Grease” to entertaining comedies like “Lend Me a Tenor” to lesser known yet thought-provoking dramas such as “The Trip to Bountiful.”  As a non-profit organization, all the money made from ticket sales goes back into the theater.  Not all productions net the same kind of return, however.  The well-attended musicals support the others that don’t see the same kind of ticket sales.

Adult ticket prices range from $12-$15 depending on the type of show, a bargain compared to other community theaters.  “It’s definitely not a money-making operation!” Ron emphasized.

Making money is not the goal of the Playhouse, however.  Their goal is to encourage performing arts and bring live entertainment to the people of and visitors to the Bandon community, and with the hard work of the board; the talent of the directors, actors, and backstage crew; and the support of the community, they’re doing just that.