The Square Kitchen Opens Today!
. . . It’s a project 8 years in the making.
Food. It does more than just nourish our bodies. It’s a vehicle for transmitting culture and building community. It sustains families and farmers. It employs a huge workforce.
Food is integral to our economy, our environment, and our families. That’s one reason why SLCgreen has a food policy program which aims to increase the amount of local food grown, sold, and purchased in Salt Lake City.
Today we are thrilled to celebrate a huge milestone for a project we’ve been working on since 2010—the opening of a culinary incubator kitchen.
Some of you may have heard of incubator kitchens—Utah has several, including the Spice Incubator Kitchen and one operated out of Utah State University.
The concept is simple—eliminate some of the biggest barriers to entry for entrepreneurs to succeed in the food industry. Often the single biggest barrier is lack of commercial kitchen space. Finding space that is big enough, has the right equipment, and is affordable can make or break a food startup’s ultimate success.
In 2010, SLCgreen and our Food Policy Task Force—a convening of various local food experts—began trying to raise money to support a feasibility study to examine whether another incubator kitchen was needed for our community.
In 2013, we completed the feasibility study undertaken by Carbaugh & Associates. The results showed there was high demand. It also outlined the main components needed for a Salt Lake City incubator kitchen, namely it should have:
- A central location.
- At least 3,500 square feet of kitchen area to meet the demand in our community—with room to continue to grow.
- A range of equipment to meet the needs of our diverse food entrepreneurs.
- To be available 24 hours a day.
- In addition, the incubator kitchen should also be a one-stop shop for getting one’s business off the ground.
- It should offer resources for developing a business plan, learning more about marketing and design, supporting continuing education around food safety, and imparting other tricks of the trade.
With an investment of $375,000 from Salt Lake City (this includes a $250,000 Sustainability Department grant, $100,000 from the City Council, a $25,000 façade grant from Housing and Neighborhood Development, and $25,000 for a fire hydrant) as well as a $200,000 loan from the Sustainability Department, the culinary incubator kitchen dream became a reality!
In 2015, SLCgreen put out a Request for Proposals for operator-owners of the kitchen and ultimately selected Analia Valdemoros, MCMP and Tham Soekotjo.
Together they have over 16 years of diverse experience as urban planners, entrepreneurs and local food business owners. Square Kitchen, LLC was established in March 2015 with the mission of building a culinary kitchen incubator facility accessible to all community members.
They broke ground on the facility in spring 2016 and, after navigating a major reconstruction and upgrade project, have officially opened for business today!
The Square Kitchen can currently accommodate 14 businesses at a time, and has the space to continue to grow. This is good news because there are 85 interested businesses on the wait-list!
Phase II and Phase III of the project include opening 100 square-foot “pop-up” retail shops, as well as developing a USDA-certified meat processing area.
Mayor Biskupksi shared her support and enthusiasm at the opening today.
“Over the years, this location has housed a beer distributor, a manufacturing company, a motorcycle repair shop, a beauty warehouse, and a boxing gym,” she told a crowd of reporters, Square Kitchen clients, and supportive community members.
“Let’s appreciate and acknowledge how far we’ve come together. I am so excited to see what kind of magic you create in this building in its newest incarnation—the Square Kitchen!”
We couldn’t agree more!
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