Cheese center would be great for vacant building

IN ITS HEYDAY, THE Cheese Exchange in Plymouth was the center of the cheese world.

For decades, buyers and sellers came together to set prices and make deals for the area’s prime commodity – cheese.

The building at the corner of Mill and Stafford streets was the crossroads for cheese makers and buyers, and it helped make Plymouth the Cheese Capital of the World.

Today, the marketing dynamic for cheese is much different and the cheese exchange, which long ago left Plymouth for other venues, is no longer the force it once was in the industry.

But Plymouth has not stopped being the Cheese Capital of the World. With major cheese companies like Sargento, Sartori, Masters Gallery, Dairy Farmers of America and Great Lakes Cheese still headquartered here or having facilities here, cheese is still what defines Plymouth.

But while the city has trademarked the slogan Cheese Capital of the World and is moving forward with plans to market that designation, including a logo, there is no place in the city where the heritage, history and products of our cheese industry are gathered and celebrated in one place.

The city has a fine museum and two dozen one-of-a-kind murals to celebrate its history, and a fine arts center to celebrate its culture and arts, but there is nowhere where the proud story of Plymouth’s cheese industry – and samples of its excellent products – are offered for curious visitors and interested locals.

The Redevelopment Authority is hoping to change all that, however, with its plans for the now-vacant building at 133 E. Mill St.

The RDA took over the building in a foreclosure sale some time ago and, with the help of the city, has made it ready for renovation – gutting the interior, replacing the roof and removing an ugly addition on the back.

Spearheaded by RDA Chair Lee Gentine – himself a member of one of Plymouth’s proud leading families of cheese – and City Administrator Brian Yerges, efforts are underway to rehabilitate the building in the heart of the city. would be to convert the upstairs into two

The first phase apartments, but the major effort will be to create a cheese center in the commercial space on the main floor.

Retail Works of Mequon is coming on board as a consultant to the effort. The firm brings broad expertise and experience in creating retail, museum and other public spaces for a variety of purposes.

They will begin by working with a focus group crossing all generations to determine what would best fit in the space at 133 E. Mill St. to create a welcome for those visiting the Cheese Capital of the World and an appreciation for those who live here for what made us the Cheese Capital of the World.

It could be displays on the history of the cheese industry here. It could be hands-on demonstrations of the processes and procedures of cheesemaking. It could be demonstrations of the uses of cheese in food and fi ne dining. It could be a retail space for local cheese products. It could be even more than anyone has yet envisioned.

But whatever it might become, it would be a long overdue celebration and recognition of what made Plymouth great.

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