Cheesemakers find home in Albany

2011-05-16T11:02:00Z 2011-05-16T11:16:06Z Cheesemakers find home in AlbanyBy Steve Lathrop, Albany Democrat-Herald Albany Democrat Herald

Francisco Ochoa moved his business to Albany six months ago because he had the chance to increase his space and also get closer to his prime market.

After eight years of operation in Eugene, he opened Ochoa’s Queseria at 815 First Ave. E. in order to supply his Mexican cheese more readily to customers in Salem and Woodburn.

“They have a large Mexican population. And this is a bigger space than we had,” Ochoa said.

The surprise has been that more and more customers taking advantage of his product aren’t necessarily Hispanic. He’s found out that just about everyone likes what he’s offering.

“Most people seem to like it a lot,” he said. “They had a lot of curiosity at first but they find out it’s really not that different from most cheeses. But it does have its own flavor.”

Ochoa’s wife, Lisa, who also works at the shop, says people always expect the cheeses to be more spicy.

“They really aren’t,” she said. “Our cheeses are closely related to other types of cheese.”

Ochoa’s Queseria uses milk from local farms to produce seven types of cheese. All are made from authentic Mexican recipes that Ochoa learned from his parents.

The most popular items are his Queso Fresco and Queso Oaxaca, a Mexican string cheese. Ochoa said the name on his packaging is Don Froylan Mexican Cheese in honor of his father.

Ochoa’s parents started making cheese many years ago when they moved from Mexico to Oregon. He said they did it because they missed the Mexican cheeses.

Ochoa, 29, began making cheese when he was in his teens. He says he grew up in the business.

His wife says he’s driven by passion for what he does.

“I think he sleeps and breathes cheese,” she said.

Moving from Eugene to Albany wasn’t a difficult decision. It gave him what he wanted, particularly more elbow room.

The 2,800-square-foot building houses all the cheese-making facilities. A pasteurization starts the process which yields about 450 pounds of cheese  that is then aged, placed in cold storage and then packaged. All of it is done on site.

There is also a small storefront where he sells to walk-in customers.

His deliveries take him and a driver as far south as Medford and as far north as Seattle. The product goes to several stores in Linn County as well. He said deliveries are made four days a week.

Six people work at the small factory. Along with him and his wife and his sister, who works at the front counter, there are two cheese makers and a delivery driver. Ochoa’s hoping the business will continue to grow.

“Right now we are the only store in the state that makes Mexican cheese,” Ochoa said.

Lisa said that a grand opening is planned for later this summer in hopes of introducing more local residents to the product.

“We started so small,” she said. “It’s been really amazing to see how it has evolved into something like this.”

Ochoa’s Queseria is open Monday through Friday  from 10 a.m. to  6 p.m. He said people interested in calling in should use his cell phone number at 1-541-228-7327. A website is under construction, and Ochoa said he plans to have it running in two to three weeks.

Ochoa said he couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

“It’s all I’ve ever done,” he said. “I learned it all from my parents, and I enjoy it.”

Copyright 2015 Albany Democrat Herald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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