Supporters got a sneak peak on Thursday of the newly renovated Kalona Creamery Shop & Deli (2206 540th St SW, Kalona), which will officially open on Jan. 19, offering visitors freshly made soups and sandwiches in addition to the famous cheese curds and Iowa-sourced products on its shelves.
The creamery has big shoes to fill after taking over the space from the former Kalona cheese factory, which closed its doors in 2014 after first opening in 1946.
“We hope to take this landmark and build off the legacy that is here,” said Bill Evans, the CEO of the Open Gates Group, which bought the facility in May 2015.
Open Gates consists of eight companies, all located in the Kalona area. Products from Kalona SuperNatural, which is owned by Open Gates, will be available in the creamery shop.
Johnson County Supervisor Rod Sullivan also called the building, which stands alongside Highway 1 outside of Kalona, a landmark.
“We were heartbroken when it closed, and thrilled when we heard that Bill was involved and would be reopening it,” Sullivan said. “It’s a really special place and we’re glad it still has local ownership dedicated to protect and promote the traditions in this area.”
And before you ask, yes, cheese curds will be available. In fact, the group hopes to be making its own curds on the premises by the end of the year. In 2018, it hopes to bring in a butter making operation and, eventually, to bring in production of artisan and specialty cheeses. Windows inside the shop and deli will let visitors look out at the production process.
During the sneak peak event, visitors got to taste a few of the soups and sandwiches that will be available in the deli, including sandwiches like turkey pesto, chicken and black bean and Italian subs, in addition to soups like broccoli cheddar and beef barley.
Kalona City Administrator Ryan Schlabaugh said the closing of the previous cheese factory had a huge impact on the town’s tourist industry. He grew up in the area and said he could remember coming to the cheese factory — mostly for cheese curds.
“It has always been one of those cornerstone businesses in the area that people can relate to,” he said, adding that he was excited to see what would come of the new venture. “Open Gates is a group that consistently does good things for the community and produces a good product. They always have a vision. I’m hopeful that this will attract even more people down here.”