Youngstown, OH: The Kitchen Incubator Promotes Locally Produced Items

By Christine | The News Outlet

If a group of local entrepreneurs get their way, the phrase “Made in Youngstown” won’t be just a memory. The News Outlet’s Christine Darin brings us the details from the kitchen incubator.

Although it may sound like a construction zone, the former Penguin Pub on the on the city’s Northside will be the Lake to River Kitchen Incubator by late summer.

(It’s a way for people that want to develop food products for commercial sale to have a licensed kitchen to work in.)

Jim Converse manages the Northside and the Downtown Farmer’s Markets in Youngstown and he also works with Commonwealth Incorporated in Regional Development. He says the cost of equipment and building space pose a significant threat to start-up food related businesses.

(A lot of them fail within the first year. And it’s just a loss to everybody; it’s a loss to the people; it’s a loss to the community. So we want to help get some of the bumps out of the way for getting into starting a business on a simpler basis.)

Commonwealth Incorporated, a community development corporation, owns the incubator building and the apartments above. Local and state grant funding along with the rents from the apartments go toward incubator costs.

Rich Berg, an incubator client and maple syrup producer, says starting up a food-related business can cost close to 90 thousand dollars to produce food legally with the proper certifications.

(Most small business owners or small food producers like me can’t justify that because we’re just small. So this is an opportunity for us to come together and for maybe 15 or 20 dollars an hour have access to a certified kitchen.)

Berg wants to prepare and sell specialty maple granola. He also wants to bake and sell a Greek savory cheese and spinach pastry, spanakopita.

(If I’m able to along with the others make a living by selling to Ohio, PA, New York and West Virginia then I think that would be a great thing. Put Youngstown on the map as not a food desert anymore.)

Marla Herrmann plans to use the incubator to bake breads and sell her produce, and that’s just to start.

(I hope to put a business together, which is a lunch truck, so that I can travel around with my food. I grow the food. I process the food. And I also want to sell the food.)

Six clients signed up to rent the commercial kitchen space for a small fee, but the incubator can handle 60 to 80 clients depending on the amount of time each person needs the space.

Converse wants his people to succeed.

(We are hoping that some of our people hit the big-time like that. It takes a lot to build up the volume and get the names out.)

The group wants to sell a variety of products made from locally grown fruits and vegetables including jellies, jams, pickles, relishes, sauces and baked goods. And Herrmann hopes the idea catches on.

(This area really doesn’t have that many grocery stores, so I’m hoping that a lot of the neighbors will join in the purchasing.)

Future plans include a coffee and smoothie bar, thermal processing or canning center and a retail space.

Reporting for The News Outlet I’m Christine Darin