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.
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.
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