Written by Kathleen Hill for the Sonoma Index-Tribune.
Sonoma Cheese Factory celebrated 85 years in business on Wednesday, Feb. 17, with members of the founding Viviani family present. New decals decorate the windows, saying Sonoma Cheese Factory was started in 1931.
Tom Vella and Celso Viviani used to make cheese together, with Vella’s brother Joseph, at Sonoma Mission Creamery on the southeast corner of First Street East and Spain Street across from Mission San Francisco Solano.
In 1931 a group of local dairymen asked Tom Vella to form his own cheese company, according to the Vella Cheese Co. website. They did just that in the current Vella Cheese stone building. As production grew, he moved it back to the Sonoma Mission Creamery site in 1951, returning again in 1969 to the stone building on Second Street.
Somewhere in there, Celso Viviani and Tom Vella split and Viviani began the Sonoma Cheese Factory, designed by Pero D. Canali and built in 1945. The building remains a period piece of architecture that stands out among the neighboring classic historic adobes.
Locals and visitors used to love to watch the cheesemaking through a window toward the back of the original store. After an alleged listeria scare, cheese production was moved elsewhere and that operation was purchased by another company.
Pete Viviani, with son David Viviani, took over eventually, and now Dave’s sisters operate the store, while the cheese is made elsewhere.
Another company owns the rights to the names Sonoma Creamery, Sonoma Jack, and Mr. Cheetos. Sonoma Cheese Factory could not supply an official history by press time, so I will keep you posted. 2 Spain Street, Sonoma. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or 933-0470.