New St. Albert cheese factory hopes to produce this spring
Rebuilt facility to house new store, restaurant
The cheese factory that burned to the ground in St. Albert, Ont., last year is being rebuilt, and the first new batches of cheese are expected to be churned out this spring.
"We're really anxious to start the first vat of cheese. We just can't wait," said Eric Lafontaine, general manager of the St. Albert Cheese Co-operative.
"We're really, really proud of what we accomplished in one year. We know there's still a lot to do in a couple of months, but we started from nothing. ... It's team work. Everybody put a lot of energy in it, we accomplished so much, and we're really, really proud."
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Many jobs at the century-old factory were lost because of the fire, which destroyed the factory one year ago today.
The company moved production to three other plants in Quebec to stay in business. That saved some jobs, but more than two dozen employees have been out of work since the fire.
New building is bigger at 76,000 square feet
The new, 76,000-square-foot building is about one-third bigger than the old facility. It's expected to be in production this spring if construction goes according to plan.
A grand opening for the public won't be held until after the summer, when the rebuilt store and a brand-new restaurant are complete.
The company hopes to hire a lot of its former employees again and offer tours of the new site.
Josee Theoret is one of the employees who stayed on to sell cheese at a makeshift store across the street.
She said the whole experience, from the fire to construction on a new facility, has brought the employees closer together.
"It's made us stronger. It was always a family feeling, ... but it brought us all closer together even," Theoret said.