$7.8 Million SBA 504 Loan from Capital Access Group Allows Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. to Purchase Facility for New, State-of-the-Art, Artisanal Cheesemaking Operation

Capital Access Group recently helped Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company to secure $7,764,000 in total project financing through the SBA 504 commercial real estate loan program. Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, based in Point Reyes Station, CA, used the funds to purchase a property consisting of 1.92 acres of land and four buildings totaling 20,982 sq. ft. of space located at 454 Payran Street, Petaluma, CA.

Humble beginnings brought Tobias Giacomini from Italy to stake a claim in Northern California in 1904, with the sole intent of farming its fabled, fertile lands. Waldo, Tobias’ son, brought his family to West Marin County in 1938. Robert (Bob), Waldo’s oldest son, was raised on the family dairy farm and in 1959, along with his wife, Dean, purchased a 720-acre dairy farm three miles north, alongside Tomales Bay. Over the years they built a reputation for producing some of the highest quality milk in the Northbay. Today, the family business is co-owned and managed by three of Bob and Dean’s daughters, Diana Hagan, Lynn Stray, and Jill Basch. They lead as a hands-on executive team, with Diana as CFO, Lynn as COO, and Jill as CMO.

When the sisters joined the company in 2000, they recognized that the dairy had grown too big and was causing stress on the land, so they pivoted the dairy’s portfolio from milk production to environmentally sustainable, artisanal cheesemaking.

“We’re really focused on being land stewards and conservationists in how we farm because we realize that the cheese starts not just with healthy animals but with the pastures and the property,” said Jill Giacomini Basch, Chief Marketing Officer, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese. “Only through our sustainable farming practices can the land itself pay dividends to ensure the future success of our business. Fundamentally, if we do our job right, our cheese should taste like the milk our cows produce and we want our milk to taste like the region it came from. We strive to give our customers a sense of place with every wheel we produce.”

In addition to producing a top-quality product with a priority on food safety, taking care of their employees and treating them with respect, and attending to the customers’ needs, the sisters’ plans also include doubling the size of the business in three to five years, and the new cheesemaking, packaging and distribution facility makes that possible.

“We started making cheese in the new creamery in January, and we recently moved our distribution, warehousing, and receiving and shipping departments there as well,” said Jill. “It’s been a fairly quick-yet-intense process to put the business plan together, secure financing, and design and construct all of the specific improvements to the property. In the main building we basically built an entire new FDA-compliant food manufacturing facility within the walls of the original building. Because we’re still making cheese at the original creamery on the farm, we sourced all new equipment as well, greatly improving efficiencies and work flow.”

“We wouldn’t have embarked on this journey without the support of our employees. At the start of 2016 we presented our growth plan to the entire company and were thrilled with the positive response,” said Jill. “Since January, we moved a lot of staff from the farm location to Petaluma. It’s been a really exciting time for all of us.”

The company currently employs over 80 people and expects to add up to eight new hires in 2018.

First foray into financing

“When we started looking at borrowing funds for the project, that was really our first foray into financing,” said Diana Giacomini Hagan, Chief Financial Officer, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese. “Previously, we were fortunate to be able to do most things through cash flow. The benefit of the 504 loan was the 90 percent financing, which allowed us to get as many dollars as we could out of the project. At the end of the day, we’re ending up with a state-of-the-art cheesemaking facility that’s going to help us get to the next level.”

“I am so pleased that Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese was able to take advantage of the SBA 504 program’s low down payment and low, fixed interest rate to purchase a new facility to grow their business,” said Julie Clowes, U.S. Small Business Administration District Director, San Francisco District Office. “We know it’s not easy to run a business, so we are happy to offer resources, like the 504 program, to help support business growth and expansion.”

“The loan process was multifaceted, because we’re talking about a really specialized, commercial-use building,” said Diana. “The experience with Claudia (Cohen) and her team from Capital Access Group has been great. I can’t recommend them highly enough. They’ve been very easy to deal with and are very responsive.”