A former tobacco warehouse just off Maury Street in South Richmond has been converted into a coworking space designed to nurture local food businesses.
Hatch Kitchen RVA has a 9,000-square-foot kitchen designed for multiple users and outfitted with an array of cooking equipment and work stations. The coworking space is expected to be operational early in 2019 with a variety of food makers as members.
“We are creating an environment and culture to try to help everybody grow their businesses and foster collaboration and cooperation,” said Austin Green, Hatch Kitchen RVA’s executive director.
“We have meal prep companies that are interested and caterers, food trucks and consumer packaged goods companies,” Green said. “We even have some established brick-and-mortar businesses who are interested in having a membership, because if you want to try to run a catering operation out of your restaurant, it is going to bog down your kitchen operations.”
“We have even had interest from some restaurants to make their own packaged consumer products here,” he said.
Green co-founded Hatch with local entrepreneur Brad Cummings and Lynx Ventures, the developer of the Clopton Siteworks, which is an array of 28 former Philip Morris USA storage warehouses that are being converted for commercial use. Hatch Kitchen RVA is in one of the buildings.
Green said the vision behind Hatch Kitchen RVA is to fill a gap in services and production space for small and startup food companies in the Richmond area.
As a co-founder of Texas Beach LLC, a maker of bottled Bloody Mary Mix, Green learned how difficult it can be for a startup food or beverage maker to scale their operations.
Green started making Texas Beach Bloody Mary Mix at home, but he couldn’t sell it because his home kitchen wasn’t approved for commercial food production.
“I was making it in Mason jars and taking it to chefs and bartenders just to see what they thought of it,” he said.
For the company to make its product on a commercial scale, Green had to find a co-packing business outside the Richmond area.
Texas Beach Bloody Mary Mix is now sold at more than 200 retail stores throughout the Mid-Atlantic, Green said.
However, “We did not make a single sellable container of Bloody Mary mix here in Richmond, which makes me sad,” said Green, adding that he thinks a lack of local production space for food startups is “stifling” for entrepreneurs in that industry.
“We are trying to change that,” he said.
Hatch Kitchen has been outfitted with cooking equipment including four convection ovens, a convection steamer, a 60-gallon steam kettle, and 80-quart and 40-quart mixers, among other tools. It also has a walk-in freezer and a walk-in refrigerator.
“We basically provide the heavy-duty equipment for people,” Green said. “We don’t have spatulas … yet.”
Besides providing access to equipment, Hatch Kitchen will help food makers in other ways such as business mentoring.
“That is a big part of it,” Green said. “That is why we are referring to them as members and not as tenants.”
“We do provide a physical space for them to work, but a large part of what we do is help the companies grow,” he said. “We do that through our mentor network. It is an ever-growing list of mentors — everything from intellectual property lawyers, to chefs, to food scientists, to investors.”
Hatch Kitchen is partnering with Startup Virginia, a business incubator in downtown Richmond that has a large mentor network. It also has partnered with The Apple Cart Co., a Richmond-based consulting firm for food businesses.
Food businesses can join Hatch Kitchen RVA based on tiered membership prices, ranging from $200 a month to $2,000 a month depending on how much space and time a business needs at the facility.
A second phase of the project is being planned in the same building that will include a 2,000-square-foot events space and a café that will be open for lunch.
“The really exciting thing we are working on right now is a ready-to-eat packaging area,” Green said. The purpose of that area will be to help extend the shelf life of packaged fresh foods.
Originally Published on December 30, 2018 at 04:56PM
Article published originally via “coworking” – Google News https://www.richmond.com/business/local/hatch-kitchen-rva-serving-up-coworking-space-for-food-makers/article_42a7c548-9a0b-574c-8052-363d68cce29d.html