Shared Kitchens and Food Incubators

It was a foodie heaven. A large commercial kitchen full of chefs bottling sauces and packaging meals. Across the way was a row of small restaurant spaces with local offerings ranging from vegetarian to Asian fusion to Mexican. People were eating lunch at shared tables or grabbing a cup of coffee at the adjacent coffee roaster. Around the corner was a local food retailer and, best of all, a butcher shop.

This was the 4th Street Market and East End Incubator Kitchen in Santa Ana, CA.

It’s a for-profit space designed specifically as an incubator for food startups—restaurants, meal services, food trucks, popups, farmers market vendors, or food production. The shared commercial kitchen rents space to startups who can’t afford full scale kitchen equipment or who need a health department certified kitchen. The small, individual kitchens with counters serve as second-stage spaces for businesses who have outgrown the shared kitchen but still can’t afford the square footage of a sit-down restaurant.

Overall, the 4th Street Market is a space with a lot of things working together—they even have a room for cooking classes that’s camera ready for the chefs who produce demonstration videos for YouTube.

Even better, this space provides a needed gathering space for people who work or live in the area—and it’s not just for lunch. Live music plays on the weekends, an outdoor patio is strung with lights, and there’s a crate full of tabletop games to encourage patrons to linger.

As part of our small-scale manufacturing grant I’ve been out talking to local makers and producers to find out what resources they need to expand their business and locate on The Loop. Columbia has experts in textiles, printing, woodworking and more but by far the most common is people in food production. Whether it’s roasting coffee, fermenting kimchee, bottling BBQ sauce, or making tortillas, it seems everyone has a favorite recipe they’d love to share with others.

The Columbia Farmers Market supports local value-added products—after all, a farmer makes more on a jar of kimchee than a head of cabbage—and the planned farmers market pavilion will eventually have a first-stage commercial kitchen. However, we may need to start thinking about ways to provide more space for these startups, including affordable second-stage space where some costs are still shared and we can help mentor and market their businesses.

The Loop CID is still in the middle of a 9-month planning process so it will be interesting to see what recommendations our consultants may have regarding food production but just imagine what a difference it could mean to the Business Loop. If we could help incubate food startups we could increase the number of local restaurants on the corridor, offer talented people a path to business ownership, create new jobs within walking distance of neighborhoods, and solidify Columbia’s growing reputation as a local food mecca.

We’re still in the planning process so we encourage any makers out there—whether it’s food, furniture, or felting—to visit our website, learn about the program, and sign up on our Makers Registry. We’d love to have you making things right here on The Loop.

This article originally appeared in the Columbia Business Times.

Project Steering Committee Selected

The following individuals have volunteered to serve on the Steering Committee for this Small-Scale Manufacturing Grant. These individuals represent a wide range of interests, all of which are invaluable to this project. As we progress, we’ll also be bringing in groups of makers, educators, bankers, and others who can offer insights to the committee.

Craig Adams
Executive Director, Columbia STEM Alliance

Barbara Buffaloe
Manager, City of Columbia Office of Sustainability

Stacey Button
President, Regional Economic Development Inc.

Jo Fey
Dean of Workforce Development & Technical Ed, MACC

Carrie Gartner
Executive Director, The Loop CID

Mike Grellner
Plaza Commercial Realty

Dave Griggs
Chair, The Loop CID

Todd Hoien
Hawthorne Bank

Tyson Hunt
Owner, Logboat Brewing Co.

Susan Hart
Chamber Chair, Heubert Builders

Jim Niemann
Director of the Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic, MU

Brandon Russell
Director, Columbia Public Schools Career Center

Jessie Yankee
Director, Missouri Women’s Business Center

Jim Whitt
City of Columbia

The Loop Awarded National Grant

The Business Loop Community Improvement District (CID) is one of six organizations in the nation selected to receive technical assistance tailored to help Columbia identify and support local, small-scale manufacturing along the Business Loop Corridor.

This type of manufacturing is locally-based and focused on the production of tangible, artisan goods. This includes value-added agricultural products, breweries and distilleries, bakeries, coffee roasters, textiles, woodworking, metalworking, and 3D-printing. These small manufacturing industries usually have between 1 and 30 employees and are focused on both retail sales and wholesale distribution.

The Business Loop CID will partner with Regional Economic Development Inc. (REDI) on this project. This assistance is made possible by the national organization Smart Growth America with funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The technical assistance provided by Smart Growth America will be tailored to address Columbia’s specific needs, including both existing resources and potential obstacles to these local startups. While the immediate financial impact of this technical assistance is substantial, the true economic impact of the resulting action plan will be a revitalized, high-performing commercial corridor.

Locating local manufacturing along the Business Loop corridor will improve the economic health of the area the while remaining true to the character of the street.

“Not only do artisan industries and small-scale manufacturing fit with the DIY spirit on The Loop, it’s a great way to revitalize the corridor and distinguish us from other areas of Columbia,” said David Griggs, Chair of the Business Loop CID. “We’re absolutely thrilled to be selected to receive this assistance and can’t wait to get started.”

“REDI has a successful grow-your-own program for local entrepreneurs and we look forward to expanding this to local, small-scale manufacturing on The Loop,” said Jeff Echelmeier, REDI Chairman.  “This is an opportunity to create jobs in an area suffering from high unemployment rates and assist in revitalizing a critical business corridor within Columbia.”

The Business Loop Community Improvement District was chosen from among 63 other organizations and communities in 32 different states who applied for this year’s program. The applicants included municipal governments, local non-profits, and regional- and state-level organizations.

The Business Loop CID is seeking to revitalize a working-class area with new, locally-owned manufacturers. Although a clear artisan movement with an active start-up culture has emerged in recent years, the city lacks a comprehensive policy to develop and encourage small-scale manufacturing. The Business Loop CID plans to partner with REDI, along with other key players in Columbia, to use this opportunity to implement workforce training, develop public financing mechanisms, and educate the real estate community about the potential of small-scale manufacturing. Particular attention will be paid to identifying and supporting those often outside the formal support structures, such as women and minority fabricators, producers, and makers.

In addition to Columbia, MO, the five other communities awarded 2018 technical assistance grants include Baltimore, MD; High Point, NC; Lafayette, LA; South Bend, IN; and Cusick, WA. More information on how past awardees have used this grant opportunity is available at:

Smart Growth America advocates for people who want to live and work in great neighborhoods. We believe smart growth solutions support thriving businesses and jobs, provide more options for how people get around and make it more affordable to live near work and the grocery store. Our coalition works with communities to fight sprawl and save money. We are improving lives by improving communities.

Regional Economic Development Inc. is a nonprofit, public/private partnership created to enhance the vitality of business and increase the number of quality, sustainable jobs in Columbia and Boone County, Missouri. They focus on attraction, expansion/retention, and entrepreneurship.

The Business Loop Community Improvement District is an organization dedicated to creating an attractive and authentic multimodal corridor; attracting and retaining dynamic and innovative businesses, employees, and investors; designing a street that is safe, vibrant, and healthy; and communicating the importance of the area to Columbia. They recently completed a 10-year Corridor Plan to revitalize The Loop.