Recent news that Cowgirl Creamery’s Point Reyes Station retail shop and one-time factory will permanently close on Sept. 5 has come as a shock to many, but for industry insiders, it’s not a total surprise. According to the Point Reyes Light weekly newspaper, vendors were told of the impending closure in mid-July.
The move comes five years after Cowgirl was sold to Emmi, a Swiss dairy conglomerate that purchased Humboldt’s Cypress Grove in 2010 and Redwood Hill Creamery in 2015. In 2019, Cowgirl founders Sue Conley and Peggy Smith stepped back from daily operations and officially retired in 2021. Cowgirl closed their longtime Ferry Building retail shop in 2021 after COVID-19 slowed foot traffic to a trickle.
Opened in 1997, the quirky Point Reyes Station barn was the headquarters of Conley and Smith’s iconic artisanal cheese company, where they introduced triple-cream Mt. Tam, washed-rind Red Hawk, cider-washed Hop Along and champion melter Wagon Wheel. For 25 years, the shop welcomed cheese pilgrims and coastal travelers looking for picnic and pantry supplies. You could even watch Red Hawk curds and whey being separated through large glass panels.
Cowgirl soon outgrew the location, and in 2008, production moved to the current Petaluma facility.
The closure is a heartbreaker, for sure, though the Point Reyes Station shop had several ongoing issues, including wastewater constraints that precluded additional customer bathrooms or scaling up Red Hawk production, according to the Point Reyes Light. A new tenant has not been announced yet.