Bluffton, OH: Communal kitchen – Bluffton food truck owners introduce cooking, event space

DeeAnna Wilkerson/Bluffton Today Geist Ussery, of Geist and Company, and Amanda Walton, of Well Fed, prepare food to share with guests at the Lowcountry Kitchen open house Friday night

By Deeanna Wilkerson  |  Bluffton Today

DeeAnna Wilkerson/Bluffton Today  Geist Ussery, of Geist and Company, and Amanda Walton,  of Well Fed, prepare food to share  with guests at the Lowcountry  Kitchen open house Friday night
DeeAnna Wilkerson/Bluffton Today
Geist Ussery, of Geist and Company, and 
Amanda Walton, of Well Fed, prepare food
to share with guests at the Lowcountry
Kitchen open house Friday night

Known for the popular Lowcountry Lobster food truck that opened last year, Lowcountry Kitchen owner Lori Holland said the kitchen and events space happened naturally for her and her business partners.

Holland once used the kitchen at a local restaurant to prepare for Lowcountry Lobster’s events, but she quickly realized that wasn’t practical.

“Even after just a couple of events, we knew we needed our own space,” she said.

They found a location in the back of a small business park off Red Cedar Street facing a body of water.

“We loved the location and like the fact that it is off the beaten path,” Holland said.

The idea for a communal kitchen and office for Lowcountry Lobster quickly evolved into a multifaceted area that includes space for special events.

The back of the building has been equipped as an 800-square-foot kitchen certified by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. It includes all new commercial kitchen appliances, storage space and refrigeration.

The kitchen has the potential to be a kind of business incubator.

“We can share ideas and we can work together. We can be like a creative hub for food,” Holland said.

Those who intend to sell food-based products to the public must prepare them in a DHEC-certified kitchen. Lowcountry Kitchen provides a certified space for business owners to prepare, cook and store food items.

It could also attract people who have always wanted to start their own businesses but never had the resources to do so.

Holland said she has already heard from a friend who is interested in selling jams and jellies. Though she has always been interested in making her products available to the public, she’s never had a state-certified kitchen space that would allow it.

The kitchen will be rented to business owners based on their individual needs, Holland said.

So far, four others have joined the venture, including Amanda Walton of Well Fed. A certified nutritionist and health coach, Walton has known Holland for about 13 years.

When she heard about Lowcountry Kitchen, she was immediately interested in using the space for her wellness catering program.

“This is just an amazing space for us to come together as a food community,” Walton said. “There isn’t anywhere else in Beaufort County that offers this kind of space.”

Geist Ussery, who owns Geist and Company, a full-service design and coordination company that focuses on catering, private events and floral arrangements, rented a kitchen for much of his food-based work before he met Holland and joined Lowcountry Kitchen.

Being part of the communal kitchen not only gives him space to work, but also fosters relationships with other business owners.

“Everyone has their own style and we’re all bringing something to the table,” Ussery said.

He hopes to collaborate with the other kitchen users to host cooking classes, farm-to-table events and community fundraisers.

Jerri Husch, a sociologist and chef, is operating her cooking classes in the kitchen with a focus on teaching students how to work with ingredients without recipes.

Haley Lindemann, who co-owns Kona Ice, a food truck that serves up flavored shaved ice, is taking advantage of the collaboration with Lowcountry Kitchen. Holland made sure the parking lot was equipped for food trucks to plug in and do business or prepare for business right in front of the kitchen.

Lindemann and husband Erich started the business in April. They now have a permanent place to park the truck and a smaller wheeled unit that allows customers to self-serve. They also have space inside the kitchen to store items. It’s also a way to become more connected to the food business community in Bluffton, Lindemann said.

Special events

The front of Lowcountry Kitchen’s 400-square-foot room has been designed as a versatile event space where Holland has already planned and hosted birthday parties and company staff meetings. It has the potential to host all kinds of other events and fundraisers, she said.

The room can fit about 24 seated and plated guests and be decorated in a variety of ways. She recently decorated it for a 1920s-themed birthday party and then changed the decor to a professionally polished room to host an Edward Jones meeting.

And Bluffton residents need not worry about the fate of Lowcountry Lobster , Holland said.

“We’re not letting go of our food truck,” she said.

The kitchen allows Holland to expand services and create new opportunities for other business owners.

“It’s fun and creative. I never wanted to have a brick and mortar restaurant, so for me, this fits my lifestyle,” she said.

For more information, call Holland at 843-290-4388 or go to Lowcountry Kitchen’s Facebook page.