September target date for cheese center

by Emmitt B. Feldner
of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – The Plymouth Cheese Counter and Dairy Heritage Center should be open to the public shortly after Labor Day.

The Redevelopment Authority got that status update Thursday.

The group also met Sue Barth, the manager hired for the interactive museum/retail store celebrating the Cheese Capital of the World.

Randy Schwoerer, former downtown manager who has been serving as coordinator for the project so far, admitted that determining an opening day at the 133 E. Mill St. building, “has been a moving target. But the next two weeks everything is going to come together.”

Though Schwoerer expressed hope for a mid to late-August opening, City Administrator Brian Yerges cautioned that a more realistic goal would be after Labor Day.

Barth outlined the staffing plans for the center for the RDA.

“The key part is we’re going to be open seven days a week from Memorial Day through Labor Day,” she said. It would be open six days a week – closed Tuesdays – between Labor Day and Memorial Day.

The building would be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., with food service available at the lunch counter – which will offer varieties of grilled cheese sandwiches and other cheese and dairy specialties – from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“That’s going to evolve based on what people are requesting,” RDA Chair Lee Gentine said of the hours and staffing for the center.

“There will be two key positions – front of the house and runner,” Schwoerer explained. “The key thing is we want them to be welcoming, to make visitors feel like a guest in our house. They will be ambassadors for the cheese industry.”

“We have our staffing decisions put together based on our best guess of what we’re going to need,” Gentine added.

Hiring for the cheese counter guest ambassador positions should begin shortly, Barth said.

RDA member Greg Hildebrand urged Barth to consider utilizing student apprentices from Plymouth High School and Lakeshore Technical College to help staff the center. Barth assured him that is being pursued.

“Randy has been introducing me to many, many people in the area,” Barth told the authority members. “We’ve been working hard on starting our inventory.”

“We’re moving forward,” Schwoerer agreed. “Some things we’ve got quite comfortably, some are still confusing.”

Working with representatives of the local cheese companies, officials have gathered a significant collection of local dairy history items to include in the displays and d├ęcor, he added.

Gentine said the several interactive displays that will be a key feature of the center are being finalized and should be delivered in late July or early August.

A key piece of getting the building ready will be inspection of the elevators serving the second floor apartments. That is scheduled for later this week, Yerges said. After that, appliances for the upstairs apartments can be delivered and installed.

The $1.85 million restoration of the historic building, which the RDA obtained in tax foreclosure, has been going on for nearly a year, utilizing a combination of grants, private donations and other funding to pay for the project.

Between revenue from the second-floor apartments and the cheese counter/dairy center merchandise and food sales, the center is expected to be a self-sustaining operation.

“The interior is really taking on a personality,” Schwoerer summarized for the RDA.

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