Let them eat cheese — and ice cream, yogurt, butter and probably sour cream. The new Tillamook Creamery opened to the public on Wednesday.
The renovated visitor center — at about 42,800 square feet — was designed by the Seattle-based architecture firm Olson Kundig and offers an abundance of new features.
A larger dining area has more indoor seating and a spacious outdoor patio. There is an expanded ice cream counter and new coffee and yogurt bars. A revamped menu has grilled-cheese sandwiches, wood-fire pizzas and Pacific Northwest wine and beer.
The monument to dairy has been under construction for the past year and a half. The farmer-owned cooperative typically draws about 1.3 million visitors a year.
“This new visitor’s center will serve as a greeting card not just for Tillamook but the entire state of Oregon,” Gov. Kate Brown said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday. “Tillamook Creamery is proudly and uniquely Oregon. (It) has grown to be one of the most renowned dairy companies.”
Brown, who confessed her two favorite foods are cheese and ice cream, spoke of the dairy industry’s impact on the state. The governor gave accolades to Bruce Cardin’s 1997 sixth-grade class for helping make milk Oregon’s state beverage.
Eight-year-old Juliana McCoy traded in a day at camp for a visit to the grand opening with her mom that included a picture with Brown. Her visit was sweetened with one of Tillamook’s famous ice cream cones, and in the visitor center’s Farm Room, she tried to beat the average 21 seconds it takes a professional to prep a cow for milking.
“It was worth it,” McCoy declared.
With $778 million in gross revenues last year, the Tillamook County Creamery Association is the largest co-op in Oregon, employing nearly 900 people. Its approximately 90 farm families — mostly from the Tillamook area — own the cooperative and provide the milk for the cheese, ice cream, yogurt and other products.
“This is our modern day commitment to growth and giving back,” said Patrick Criteser, the president and CEO of the creamery association. “We can all agree the end result far exceed expectations.”