Ris­ing from the ashes: New, im­proved St-Al­bert Cheese

The Glengarry News - Glengarry Supplement - - News -

The new and im­proved StAl­bert Cheese Co-op­er­a­tive fac­tory was of­fi­cially opened Fe­bru­ary 3, two years to the day af­ter a fire de­stroyed the well-known op­er­a­tion.

“We are so happy to turn the page on this sad chap­ter in our Co-op’s story. Happy and proud. Be­cause here we are, big­ger, stronger and more de­ter­mined than ever to con­tinue the tra­di­tion of our an­ces­tors by mak­ing the best cheese in the coun­try,” said Co-op Pres­i­dent Ginette Ques­nel.

With pro­duc­tion tripling, the new build­ing mea­sures 75,000 square feet, which is larger than the old one. It con­tains a res­tau­rant and a shop, as well as a sec­tion that will even­tu­ally be turned into a mu­seum, and it pro­vides visi­tors with a ter­rific view of the cheese pro­duc­tion area.

“We didn’t want to just build a re­place­ment: we wanted to in­no­vate!” pointed out Gen­eral Man­ager Éric Lafon­taine, at the same time high­light­ing the ex­tra­or­di­nary sup­port re­ceived from cus­tomers over the last two years. “There is an old say­ing that what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. To­day, we can safely say that we have grown through this or­deal. And we are proud to have ac­com­plished in two years a pro­ject that gen­er­ally takes that amount of time merely to plan. But what makes us the proud­est is the com­mit­ment and sup­port we have re­ceived from our loyal cus­tomers, who, de­spite the in­con­ve­niences, con­tin­ued to buy St-Al­bert cheese. None of this would have been pos­si­ble with­out their back­ing,” he said.

All of the em­ploy­ees who were laid off while the fac­tory was be­ing re­built have been re­called, and the St-Al­bert Cheese Co-op has now re­sumed pro­duc­tion ac­cord­ing to tra­di­tion, with a recipe that has been passed down through the gen­er­a­tions, us­ing pure milk from Eastern On­tario dairy farm­ers.

“We have lots of projects, and we want to high­light our ma­ture cheeses, which are among the best in the coun­try,” ex­plained Mr. Lafon­taine. “We used the op­por­tu­nity pro­vided by this con­struc­tion pe­riod to an­a­lyze and re­struc­ture our or­ga­ni­za­tion, to carry out an ex­ten­sive mar­ket study, and to pre­pare our ac­tion plan. We are ready to take on new chal­lenges.”

High­lights

Founded in 1894, the StAl­bert Cheese Co-op­er­a­tive is one of the old­est co-ops in Canada.

It is owned by 30 Eastern On­tario dairy pro­ducer fam­i­lies.

The new fac­tory, at 75,000 square feet, is 30% larger than the pre­vi­ous one, which was 57,000 square feet.

The com­mer­cial area, which in­cludes the res­tau­rant and shop, is 9,000 square feet, up from 2,500 square feet un­der the pre­vi­ous op­er­a­tion.

The visi­tor cen­tre is 3,000 square feet, com­pared to 400 square feet be­fore.

The an­nual pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity is up to 10 mil­lion kilo­grams of cheese, com­pared to 3 mil­lion kilo­grams be­fore the fire.

The sod-turn­ing cer­e­mony was held Septem­ber 17, 2013.

The con­struc­tion phase was com­pleted in less than 17 months.

The to­tal cost of re­con­struc­tion was more than $30 mil­lion, in­clud­ing a $10 mil­lion in­vest­ment by the Cheese Co-op to im­prove and ex­pand the fa­cil­i­ties.

The num­ber of em­ploy­ees is 150, in­clud­ing 120 in St-Al­bert, which is the same as be­fore the fire.

Re­cent awards: Grand Cham­pion Ched­dar 2014 at the Bri­tish Em­pire Cheese Show, and first prize for its ex­tra ma­ture ched­dar.

BIG­GER, BET­TER: Glen­garry-Prescott-Rus­sell MPP Grant Crack (fourth from right) was among those at­tend­ing the of­fi­cial open­ing.

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