Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Thomas Garcia
Staff writer 

Making 'grate' strides

Tucumcari Mountain Cheese ready to take more business after expansion.

 

December 6, 2017

Thomas Garcia

Tucumcari Mountain Cheese Factory worker James Rodriguez pushes feta cheese into molds.

A warehouse expansion project and automation upgrade at Tucumcari Mountain Cheese Factory have increased the plant's daily production. Now it's looking for more business.

"We wanted this expansion to secure the company's longevity in the community of Tucumcari," said Chuck Krause, co-owner of TMCF.

Krause, along with his business partner Art Schaap, have been working on the expansion for five years. He said the new automated equipment has just been in operation since the second week of October.

"Slowly but surely we were able to complete the work. I am so glad it is over," Krause said.

Krause said the factory is producing 30,000 pounds of cheese a day. That is an increase from 20,000 pounds before the expansion. He said the staff is capable of producing more cheese, it is now just a matter of finding new business.

"Before the expansion we were running seven days a week just to keep up with the orders we had and could not take on new customers," Krause said. "Now, we have the ability to go out and find more businesses for production and sales."

Krause said the increased business will result in the creation of new jobs as well as job security for his current employees. He said the plant has 35 full-time employees. Depending on how much new business can be generated, there is the possibility of hiring more than 10 new employees.

"Securing the future of our current employees, many of whom are in their early- to mid-20s, was very important to Art and I," Krause said.

Krause, who comes from a long line of cheese makers, started the factory with Schaap in April of 1995. He said there were times during the company's existence that the future of the business was in question.

"We are now in a position to expand our sales, bring more jobs to the community and have a large impact on the area economy," Krause said.

Krause said feta cheese accounts for 90 percent of the factory's production. The feta is shipped nationally to locations including Boston, Seattle, Las Vegas and to the largest market in Southern California, he said.

The smaller production percentage is used for specialty cheeses including TMCF's signature green chili pepper jack and ghost pepper cheese.

"Around here, feta is king," Krause said. "However, during the holidays we see an increase in the request for specialty cheeses."

Krause said residents have expressed interest to him about the workings of the cheese factory.

"We can't just open the factory up for tours, it presents too much of an issue for contamination and bacteria," Krause said. "We just hope we can bring some pride to the community in knowing they have a world class cheese factory in their town."

 

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