Sonoma Foods, producer of the popular Sonoma Jack line of cheeses, is returning to the family fold, but with a different name.
The company was sold in 2005 to Salinas-based Monterey Gourmet Foods after some tough years during which it suffered a series of financial and public relations setbacks.
On Thursday, a group that includes a member of the family that co-founded the company announced it has bought it back and changed its name to Sonoma Creamery.
"I'm really glad to get back in this business again," said David Viviani, whose grandfather helped start the company, on Sonoma's plaza, in 1931. Viviani will be vice president of marketing at Sonoma Creamery, which remains based in Sonoma.
Sonoma Jack will remain the company's signature brand but new cheese lines are planned, and some hiring is foreseen in Sonoma County in areas ranging from production to business operations, said John Crean, the company's chief executive officer and president.
"We intend to hire more folks on all fronts," said Crean. "We definitely want to expand. That's why we invested. We're very bullish on the opportunities."
The company has six employees now, including Crean and Viviani.
It was purchased back from Monterey Gourmet by a private investment group, Estate Cheese Group, formed six months ago and led by Crean, founder of Winery Exchange, a Novato-based wine and spirits company.
The cheese company is privately held and neither Crean nor Viviani would disclose the deal's terms or the other investors' identities, though Crean said some are in Sonoma County.
In 2005, Monterey Gourmet paid $3.8 million and $198,000 in stock for 80 percent of the company. It acquired the remaining 20 percent for $50,000 in 2008.
The company was losing money when it was purchased, Monterey Gourmet officials said in 2008. Crean would not say on Thursday whether it was profitable now.
Sonoma Foods nearly went under in 2001 after federal inspectors found dangerous bacterium in a cheese sample, leading to a recall. That won't be a factor going forward, and was not behind the company's name change, said Crean.
"It's pretty much ancient history. There was different management involved, a different production platform," he said.
Today, the company's cheeses — it has about a dozen lines — are produced in Sonoma County and other Northern California locations. Neither Crean nor Viviani would disclose those locations.