Teen donates a portion of profits from her creamery to AmpSurf

NORTH COUNTY — Sixteen-year-old Avery Jones is kind of a big thing in the artisan cheese world.

Avery, who was 15 at the time and a junior at Templeton High School, started Shooting Star Creamery in 2019. The first cheese she produced, Aries, took third place Best of Show at the prestigious American Cheese Society competition in 2019. There were 1,742 cheeses entered. She was the youngest cheesemaker ever to place that high at the ACS.

Overnight, Aries became a must-have for cheese lovers around the world. The meteoric success allows Avery to do things she did not think she would be doing as a teenager.

“We know a lot of people want to get their hands on it,” Avery said. “There’s a waiting list. Every time we have a batch ready, they are already sold and have been sold for three months.”

This month, Avery donated $2,200 to AmpSurf of Pismo Beach, a big check and all. She raised the money by setting aside a portion of the proceeds from the cheese sales at Shooting Star.

“I didn’t think I would be able to give $2,200 to a charity when I was 16,” Avery said. “It felt incredible. I just didn’t expect to be able to do that at this point in my life.”

Avery Jones, who was 15 at the time, and her Aries cheese took third place overall at the American Cheese Society competition. Photo courtesy of Shooting Star Creamery

Avery is proud of her family’s military background and settled on AmpSurf because of its work with veterans and their families. Her great-great-grandfather fought in World War I and her great-grandfather fought in World War II. 

“We looked around for any local charities that we could give to help local veterans,” Avery said. “We found AmpSurf. Basically, they give surfing lessons to veteran amputees.”

AmpSurf (Association of Amputee Surfers) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching adaptive surfing to promote, inspire, educate and rehabilitate people with disabilities. It was started in 2003. The group’s motto is PIER, which stands for promote, inspire, educate and rehabilitate.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, nonprofits like AmpSurf have seen donations slow to a trickle.

“They were really happy that we could help,” Avery said. “We are going to keep doing it and stick with AmpSurf.”

Add owning a business to the list of things Avery did not expect to be doing as a teenager. She started Shooting Star Creamery when she was 15.

Avery did not wake up one morning, thinking she wanted to start a creamery. It’s also not a far-flung notion, considering her dad, Reggie Jones, has been making cheese for 30 years and with his wife started Central Coast Creamery in 2008.

Central Coast Creamery was started in Oakdale and moved to Paso Robles in 2013 after it outgrew the facility in the foothills east of Modesto. The plan all along was to move CCC to Paso Robles. Reggie has photos of Avery packaging cheese when she was 8 years old.

CCC is no slouch in the artisan cheese community. In the nearly 10,000 square foot facility, they manufacture between 4,000 and 5,000 pounds of cheese a week, using cow, goat, and sheep milk. The cheese is distributed in the Western US, Chicago and New York — 99 percent goes outside the county.

“Here at this facility, we have won more national and international awards than any cheese company in the country over the last five years,” Reggie said. “We keep saying that some of the best cheese in the world is being made right here and nobody knows about it.”

Shooting Star was an avenue for Reggie to get back to the basics and work alongside his daughter, teaching her not only cheesemaking skills but business and life skills, too. Any money that came from it would go toward college for Avery.

The company and its cheese labels — Aries, Leo and Scorpio — are a nod to Avery’s enjoyment of stargazing. Leo is a blooming-rind sheep’s milk cheese and Scorpio is a washed-rind sheep’s milk cheese.

“We started Shooting Star almost as a hobby at first,” Avery said. “I wanted to make cheese, and my dad wanted to show me how to make cheese. We decided to start a little company for myself to experiment with a few different recipes.”

Around the dinner table one night, Aries’ recipe came together — a sheep milk Alpine cheese aged for nine months. It was important that it not just be another gourmet cheddar or gouda.

They entered Aries in the ACS competition with some CCC cheeses, hoping to get some constructive feedback from judges, never thinking it would do what it did.

“Dad was mad at me for a little while after,” Avery said jokingly.

Avery is planning to go off to college in the Fall of 2021 — Stanford University and the University of South California are at the top of her list. She has not decided on a major. When she is away at college, the plan is to keep Shooting Star going. After all, it’s making money and making people smile.

“The thing I like most about it is that it is making people happy,” Avery said. “I like to provide happiness for people.”

Central Coast Creamery and Shooting Star Creamery

Address: 3850 Ramada Dr., C-3, Paso Robles

Websites: www.centralcoastcreamery.com/ and www.shootingstarcreamery.com/

Cheeses can be purchased online or locally at Vivant Fine Cheese and Di Raimondo’s Italian Market and Cheese Shop, of Paso Robles; Nature’s Touch in Templeton; Vons and Albertsons.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles