The dense fog that often hangs in the valley gives the county a bit of that magical Brigadoon aura. If you didn’t know where you were going, you might not find Tillamook. But arriving on a warm sunny day dispels any notion of the Scottish highlands. Travelers on Oregon Coast Highway 101 certainly know where Tillamook is. The company store and restaurant are packed with summertime tourists who stop for breakfast or lunch and replenish their campers with squeaky cheese and other foods made on the premises.
Jay Allison, the vice president of sales and marketing, said that before the casinos came to Oregon, the location was one of the Top 10 tourist destinations in the state. Even though poker chips now outdraw cheese curds, the visitor center remains a tourist favorite. In addition to buying lunch or an ice cream cone, visitors can sample cheeses and buy packaged cheese and souvenirs in the company store. From a second-story viewing platform, they can look through glass windows to the stainless steel cheese vats, presses and cut-and-wrap operations on the floor below. (See related article on page 62.)
This transparency plays into the company lore that Tillamook is “the little co-op that could,” turning out prize-winning cheeses from family farmers who milk cows not treated with the growth hormone rBST. That is all true. But Tillamook has aspirations to be a bigger player. It has moved beyond its roots in the Pacific Northwest into California, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Texas and other western states. Its cheeses are available nationwide.