Grafton Village Cheese opening Proctorsville location

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Grafton Village Cheese Company

by C.B. Hall, Vermont Business Magazine One of the Green Mountain State's best-known cheesemakers is moving many of its functions from Brattleboro to a new home. The Grafton Village Cheese Company, established in the eponymous town in 1892, expects to launch operations at the location, alongside Vermont 103 in Proctorsville (town of Cavendish, Windsor County), on March 9. The new facility will cut, pack, and warehouse cheese made at the company's production plant in Grafton and will also include a retail outlet.

The company's post-production functions had been located in leased space alongside Route 30 in Brattleboro for 11 years. Brattleboro's Retreat Farm acquired that property in 2022, terminating the lease. The Retreat, a private mental-health institution, will expand its functions into the space being vacated by the cheese company.

While the Brattleboro and Proctorsville locations have comparable vehicular traffic volumes, the latter will put the company on the main route feeding the Okemo Mountain resort from the south, promising excellent retail possibilities - as with major retailers who maintain outlets on key corridors leading to destinations like Stowe and Killington.

CEO Curt Alpeter told VermontBiz that the company would be using about half the 19,000-square-foot Proctorsville building, in which Vermont Fresh Pasta already operates.

Grafton Village Cheese Company CEO Curt Alpeter

Grafton Village Cheese Company CEO Curt Alpeter

While the Grafton Village Cheese Company is an LLC, the company stands apart from other cheese producers in its 100% ownership by a nonprofit community organization, the Windham Foundation, established in 1963. In addition to the cheese company, the foundation operates the Grafton Trails and Outdoor Center, adjacent to the cheese plant, as well as the Grafton Inn, located in the heart of the picture-postcard village. On its website. the foundation describes its purpose as "to ensure that the region’s and the state’s rural economy remain viable."

"We're a mission-driven company," Alpeter said. "The profits of the company go towards the Windham Foundation... It's all sort of in the family."

The company's roots go back to 1892 - in the days before effective refrigeration - when a local farmer's co-op began making cheese as a longer-lasting alternative to fresh milk. That cheese plant burned down in 1912, however, and commercial cheese-making in the Windham County town endured a long hiatus until the foundation revived the enterprise in 1967.

Today the company employs about 30. Production unfolds under the eye of Mariano Gonzalez, whose cheddars have garnered national and international prizes during his 30-odd years in the cheese-making business in California and Vermont.

Alpeter divided Grafton's production into three product lines: "everyday," infused, and cave-aged, cloth-bound cheddars. The first is a one- to two-year cheddar made with milk primarily from jersey cows from some half-dozen local farms. Jerseys are known for their milk's high protein and fat content, which in his words "just takes a phenomenal, superior-tasting cheese."

The cave-aged cheddar, by contrast, uses cow or sheep milk, or a combination of the two. "These cave-aged are really what we're trying to a bring a little more brand awareness to."

The infused cheeses, which are not aged, include a smoked chili-pepper, a maple wood-smoked, and a truffle-infused cheddar. They're made by independent producers, whom he declined to identify, but are distributed by Grafton

Alpeter took the reins of the company last December after several years as president of Runamok Maple in Fairfax. He brought 33 years of experience with Vermont businesses with him.

"The firm is expanding. The Retreat is expanding," he explained the move from Brattleboro.

"By mid-March we should be in full swing" at the Proctorsville location, he said.

vermontbiz.com Vermont Business Magazine