One of central Durham’s newest business ventures is an interesting portmanteau of two different hot memes in recent years here in the Bull City and the Triangle.
In one corner, you have the idea of the incubator, the concept that provides affordable space for start-up companies, mixing in support services, mentoring and access to other help that a new business needs.
In the other corner, you’ve got Durham’s foodie scene, the mix of locavore demand, nearby organic farms and affordable costs that led first to a boom in locally owned restaurants and, in quick succession, food trucks.
Food trucks in particular have boomed in the Bull City, thanks to looser regulations than in other nearby cities — though the requirement that a mobile eatery has to be tethered back to a brick-and-mortar commercial kitchen has created at least a bit of a barrier to entry.
Enter into this scene The Cookery, a self-described “culinary business incubator” opening up this spring on West Chapel Hill St. in the building that once housed the Durham Food Co-op.
Come April, The Cookery will be a full-service commercial kitchen space available for rent by the hour, 24 hours a day, with everything that food trucks, caterers or other budding food entrepreneurs will need to make their business go.
Besides four commercial convection ovens, a 30 quart floor mixer, a walk-in cooler and reach-in freezers, The Cookery will offer terminals for cleaning and stocking food trucks and rental lockers.
But The Cookery isn’t slated to just be a kitchen for rent. It’s planned to be a true business incubator, too, offering design and marketing services and hosting seminars and workshops to help food entrepreneurs get going in their business.
The incubator is the brainchild of Nick Hawthorne-Johnson, who bought the building when the co-op closed, and his wife Rochelle Johnson of Row Design Studios.
“The high cost of starting a food business is what holds most people back. Combining a production facility and business support services under one roof makes launching and growing a food business an attainable goal even for people with limited resources,” said Hawthorne-Johnson in a press reelase.
The couple was involved in the purchase of the building a couple of years back, though future plans for the business were paused while they took a one-year, 30,000 mile driving trip from Durham to Buenos Aires (a trip well-documented in a book and web site.)