Future of cheese factory uncertain after no bids placed at auction

Rex Bohn: A lot of people working to find a way to keep brand alive

Today is the last day Loleta Cheese Factory is open. (Ruth Schneider — The Times-Standard)
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No bids were made during a public auction Friday morning for two properties that together make up the Loleta Cheese Factory.

A crowd of around 20 people gathered around agents of Fidelity National Title who were charged with auctioning the two properties.

The bidding on one property started at $31,940.84; the other was priced at $445,192.71. No bids were placed.

Both “reverted back to the beneficiary,” one of the agents said, who declined to provide her name.

An agent of Fidelity National Title seeks bids for two properties that comprise the Loleta Cheese Factory. There were no bids and the property reverts back to Fidelity National. (Ruth Schneider — The Times-Standard)

Umpqua Bank said in a statement Thursday that foreclosure on the property was “a last resort” after years of working with the property owners.

The owners of the Loleta Cheese Factory were not at the auction.

Bob Laffranchi talked to the Times-Standard earlier Friday morning. Sitting at one of the tables in the Queso Kings grilled cheese bar, he repeated his thanks.

Bob Laffranchi sits in the Loleta Cheese Factory on Friday morning, the last day it could be open for business ahead of the auction. Laffranchi is still hopeful work “behind the scenes” could keep the business alive. (Ruth Schneider — The Times-Standard)

“We’ve been very blessed with a wonderful staff,” he said. “Thank you to everyone who has come to Loleta Cheese, especially this week.”

While the property no longer belongs to Laffranchi, the equipment inside does. Laffranchi previously told the Times-Standard that the bank raised interest rates on a loan the cheese factory took out. When the interest rates went up, the monthly payments nearly doubled from around $4,400 per month to nearly $8,000 per month which created financial hardship.

Despite the lack of a buyer, many in the community and Laffranchi remain hopeful for the future of the cheese factory.

First District Supervisor Rex Bohn is in talks with community members who want to see the brand and the business continue locally.

Will it continue in its same location?

“We are certainly hoping — that’s why we are putting so much time and effort in to keep the cheese factory, the brand, and most importantly, the employees working in Loleta,” Bohn said Friday afternoon. “There are a lot of things that need to line up. There’s a lot of people working for that end result.”

Bohn, like Laffranchi, said work “behind the scenes” could help keep the brand alive.

“After the sale today, it gives us time to work,” Bohn said. “This gives us an opportunity to make calculated business decisions to move this forward.”

Bohn added he does have a personal interest in the future of the business.

“I love cheese. I really do,” he said. “… I especially love locally made cheese.”

Laffranchi said Friday afternoon that he was not surprised by the lack of bids on the properties.

“It had been predicted to me,” he said. “And that’s exactly what took place.”

He said he realizes he needs patience to get through this period.

“My stated goal is still to save Loleta Cheese and take care of our staff and get them back to work as soon as possible,” he said.

Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520.

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