For-profit food incubators like Union Kitchen in Washington, D.C. and The Cookery in Durham, NC have been changing the game when it comes to helping small food startups get on their feet, and soon, Charm City will have one of its own.
The Accelerator Building on York Road, a 28,000-square-foot space which has previously operated as a furniture store and a car dealership, will soon debut as B-More Kitchen, a communal hub for budding food businesses to mass-produce their gourmet goods.
“The goal is to take small food entrepreneurs, who have great products and a viable business plan, and give them a platform to fulfill their potential,” says Eben Altmann, co-founder of B-More Kitchen. “We want to help guide the members along so that, hopefully, they can eventually graduate out of the incubator and become as successful as they can.”
B-More Kitchen will house a 10,000-square-foot shared commercial kitchen, its own bakery, a dishwashing area, cold and dry storage, office space, a receiving area, an “equipment library” with communal cookware, and a catering venue on the second floor.
Altmann and co-founder Jonathan Fishman estimate that the facilities can accommodate about 50-60 members, who will have 24/7 access to the building’s amenities for a monthly fee. Some of the local businesses already on-board to snag space include Belvedere Square-based picklers Hex Ferments, and Woot Granola, the brainchild of Fishman’s wife, Gail.
In addition to supplying space for production, B-More Kitchen will also provide members with resources for marketing and business planning, bookkeeping, and distribution efforts. (A partnership in place with Union Kitchen will offer members distribution connections to chains like Whole Foods and Mom’s Organic Market.)
Another advantage: Fishman notes that working in an incubator setting is an ideal way to surpass food laws that restrict entrepreneurs from selling goods produced in their homes to larger grocery stores.
“Early on, [my wife] took her stuff to small markets in town and they would tell her that, while the product was very nice, they couldn’t carry it on their shelves unless it was made in a commercial kitchen,” he says. “Through all of her participation in food events around town it became apparent very quickly that this is a barrier everyone is facing.”
While the incubator concept differs slightly, B-More Kitchen’s opening comes in the midst of Baltimore’s current food hall craze, which has produced up-and-coming communal spots like Mt. Vernon Marketplace, R. House in Remington, and White Hall Mill in Hampden.
“The two of us have been to enough farmers’ markets to know that there’s a huge need for this,” Altmann says. “There’s definitely a pull of curiosity among small business owners in the food community, and they seem to be very excited about what we’re doing.”
Fishman estimates that construction will wrap up this spring, slating a grand opening date for April 2016.
“Co-work space is becoming so popular across the board in technology, manufacturing, and all other kinds of creative fields,” he says. “There’s a real sense of support, and for people who are taking the plunge, it’s comforting to be a part of a community of food entrepreneurs.”