In Good Taste

Mindgrub Opening Tech and Food Infusion Project in Riverside

Todd and Nikki Marks combine their interests for hybrid concept in former Rachel space.

If there’s one thing that husband-and-wife duo Todd and Nikki Marks both feel they need in their respective careers as a developer and chef—it’s more workspace.

Todd, the founder and CEO of Mindgrub Technologies, says the mobile app, web, and and marketing company has outgrown its 20,000 square-foot offices inside the Banner Building in Locust Point. And Nikki, co-owner of Share Kitchen in the same building, has given up her own area in the commissary kitchen to meet the demand of other food startups interested in leasing space.

“We’ve got people practically sitting on laps at Mindgrub,” Todd says. “We’ve just run out of room. And Nikki is a chef without a home right now. There’s just so much demand for kitchen space.”

A lightbulb went off when Todd came across the former home of Rachel New American Cuisine, a three-story building zoned for many different uses, just down Fort Avenue in Riverside. Though the former restaurant has sat vacant for more than a year, he envisioned the top two floors as Mindgrub offices, and the kitchen as a place for Nikki to continue her cooking classes, prep for catering gigs, and host other chefs in need of commercial equipment. Keeping all of this in mind, the couple recently purchased the property as a home for a new collaborative concept, which they’re calling, “Mindpub.”

“There are a lot of options that we want to try out by having this space,” Todd says. “It’s kind of a food-tech playground to see how food, technology, kitchens, and office space get to play together.”

Eventually, the couple can see the first floor transforming into a cafe that is open to the public full time. But the short-term plan is for it to be a hangout for Mindgrub employees and an events space for the company’s many meetings and speaker series.

Other than the remediation work that inevitably comes with reviving a vacant building, the owners say the quick turnaround—Todd expects workers to begin using the space mid-December—will involve building a rooftop deck and adding fresh coats of paint. The offices will be able to accommodate 30-40 people, while the kitchen will have room for 10-15 chefs working in the kitchen at any given time.

Todd says that Mindpub is a stepping stone for a much larger “work-live-play” environment that he envisions for the company when its lease at the Banner Building is up in five years.

“When I look at my younger employees—it’s all about the experience,” he says. “The office of the future should be kind of like Google or Silicon Valley. They have things like tetherball, dry cleaning, and daycare. This is a foray into that.”

For now, he is excited to activate the 4,000-square-foot corner spot, which historically hasn’t survived as a restaurant, as something that will have many different uses within the community.

“Over the past ten years I think four or five restaurants came in and out of that space,” he says. “The other places were trying to do two-floor restaurants, and they couldn’t get enough people in there because of parking, cost, or [a lack of diners coming in from other neighborhoods]. So the fact that we can have office space and the restaurant will allow everything to thrive.”

Of course, Todd is also looking forward to the opportunity to collaborate more closely on a project with Nikki. The two previously worked together to rebrand food truck MindGrub Cafe, which Nikki sold last year to focus her energy on Share Kitchen. But Todd says that Mindpub will create an entirely new experience for the couple.

“We’re always trying to figure out why we’re so in love,” he says. “I’m a math guy, but the only conclusion I can come to is that we both have the same stardust in us. In this case, we get to parallel play. It’s the best of both worlds because we’re not reporting to each other, we’re not in the same business, but we both get to do what we love under one roof.”