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Remembering the Ferry Building

Posted by Cowgirl Creamery on
Remembering the Ferry Building

I first visited the Ferry Building in 2011. It was a sunny Saturday in Spring, almost a decade ago as I write this.  I was visiting San Francisco for the very first time, a New Yorker drawn, as so many are, by the lure of sun, sea and seasonal produce.  The iconic Ferry Building was a requisite stop on my food-filled itinerary.

The Saturday Farmer’s Market was bustling, and my eyes grew wide at the bounty of citrus, fresh flowers, green things everywhere.  It was the day in the year when Jennifer Bice brought her baby goats down from Redwood Hill in Sebastopol.  I jockeyed for viewing space, a grown woman gently jostling kids (humans) to see the kids (goats). Little did I know, then, that we would be drawn back together as sister companies ten years later.

Ferry Building Farmers Market

Inside the Ferry Building, I marveled at the sheer expanse of the hall, reminiscent of the European markets I loved so much as an undergrad living and traveling abroad.  I leveraged my position—an eager young cheesemonger from New York—to try my hand at using the shiniest, loveliest hand-cranked Berkel charcuterie slicer over at Boccalone, since closed.  I bought bread from Della Fattoria—also no longer at the  market—and Meyer Lemon marmalade from Frog Hollow Farm—another former tenant.  And, of course, I took in Cowgirl Creamery.

Back then, the shop was full service, a broad wooden counter welcoming cheese lovers from the nave and into a veritable wonderland of cheese.  Mongers in crisp white chef coats offered tastes and fresh samples of cheeses I knew, our beloved European classics, and those I didn’t, a new-to-me West Coast selection.  I had a picnic in Golden Gate Park later that day and thought, “San Francisco!”

Years later, on a visit to the city that inspired this New Yorker to head west and try on a new California identity, I met with our founder, Sue Conley, over coffee. We talked about the potential for the business, for retail, for cheese.  It would be years before I would myself join Cowgirl,  where my first three months of indoctrination were spent at the Ferry Building.  

I worked the floor, donned one of those crisp white chef coats, learned to make a Sidekick grilled cheese and met our regulars on Saturday mornings.  I spent the week before Christmas spreading cheer under the twinkling lights that line the vaulted ceilings during the holidays, and left exhausted—and exhilarated.

Our Ferry Building Cheese Shop

On my most recent visit to the Ferry Building this week, I left around 5pm on a weekday.  It would, in “normal” pre-pandemic times, be a bustling hub filled with commuters, after-work shoppers, visitors of all kinds.  It was empty but for a few security guards, patrolling at a social distance from each other.  I was alone with my memories of what was.

The Ferry Building has changed.  San Francisco has changed.  Cowgirl Creamery has changed with it.  In this terrible last year, we’ve all had to.  We are sad to close this chapter in our history as we bid farewell to this institution.  We are also grateful to have been part of the community here and for all the customers and food lovers who have been part of this journey. 

Now, we are harnessing our forward-looking spirit, the same Cowgirl spirit that has always driven us. The Cowgirl Creamery team and I look forward to welcoming all of you back to our homebase in Point Reyes Station, California.   Point Reyes is our birthplace, the origin of Cowgirl Creamery, and we intend to spend the coming months building new ways to experience the magic of Cowgirl there.  

Onward — to our next chapter, and to the future. 

- Amanda Parker, Cowgirl Creamery Managing Director


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  • Mike Taylor on

    My Wife and I first visited the Cowgirl Creamery stand at the ferry building a few years ago. Both of us, transplants to Southern California via the military, were absolutely taken with San Francisco and all that she had offer. As you noted, the ferry building was bustling and almost overrun back then – in the best ways. We found our love of cheese together as a couple, and have visited the bay area and north several times (especially now that one of our children goes to Sonoma State University). Cowgirl has always been i’m on our favorites, and it pains me to think we won’t be able to relive that first experience at the ferry building. Looking forward to a visit to Point Reyes!!!

  • Allyson on

    I cried when I read this post, saddened by all of our losses over the past year. But also, tears of joy when thinking back on all of our wonderful memories of time spent at the Ferry Building, tasting all of the amazing bounty that makes the bay area such an incredible experience. We are grateful that Cowgirl Creamery lives on in so many of our favorite stores, and look forward to visiting you again in your Pt. Reyes location. Best wishes for an incredible 2021 and the journey ahead.

  • Donna Kutz on

    I always loved to visit you at the Ferry Building and enjoy that special place as I am also from the East Coast NJ. I have also have had the pleasure of visiting your store at Point Reyes and will again visit ! Loved your article and enjoyed your memories. Best of luck !

  • Daunna Harris on

    Will be looking forward to the Point Reyes experience. Cowgirl on!!!!

  • Marcia Schwartz on

    Most importantly, thank you. Thank you for your spirit and your vision and your fabulous cheeses, and for sharing all that with us. We wish you better days back in beautiful Pt. Reyes. What’s essential to this particular fan is that you survive. I am saddened by the many losses thos past year. Mostly the staggering number of deaths and illness, but also the iconic losses of the City. Farewell dear Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the Cliff House, the many shops and restaurants in Chinatown, and now the Cowgirls’ inviting niche in the all too empty Ferry Building. We will tuck all those into our memory bank and hope for new entities to arise. Meanwhile I will search for your incredible cheeses at The Cheeseboard here in Berkeley. With thanks and appreciation, Marcia.

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