Lynn eyed as location for 'shared kitchen' venture

November 6, 2012
By Joyce Erekson/The Daily Item

Having a great product is certainly a good place to start when it comes to growing a business, but producing it and getting it to market have done in many aspiring entrepreneurs.

Budding local entrepreneurs, specifically those who deal with food products, face a couple of unique challenges in selling their products. One involves finding commercial kitchen space for food prep (in order to adhere to health regulations) and the other is transportation. They have to get their product where it needs to be.

The Enterprise Center at Salem State University tackled some of these issues last January when it held a seminar called "local food is big business on the North Shore." It drew approximately 90 people and from that first meeting, some ideas have taken root on how to help foster the local food initiative.

"All over the country, people are looking to buy more locally produced food," Enterprise Center CEO Christine Sullivan said. "All sorts of things are produced by local providers."

One of the possibilities that came out of the seminar and follow up meeting was renting an existing shared kitchen space at the J.B. Blood Building in Lynn. Before anything could be done, however, someone rented the space. The new tenant, however, expressed interest in sharing the space and at the same time, the possibility of a new and, according to Sullivan, more suitable shared kitchen space being built on another floor of the building came into the picture.

The Enterprise Center is holding its next meeting on the local food initiative on Friday at 9 a.m. The possibility of a new shared kitchen space in the J.B. Blood Building and utilization of the existing shared kitchen space will be discussed, along with a distribution system on the North Shore.

One of the people who has provided insight into the benefits and possibilities of creating a shared kitchen space on the North Shore is J.D. Kemp, executive director of CropCircle Kitchen in Jamaica Plain, an incubator kitchen (located in 4,000 square feet of a renovated former brewery) that supports about 40 entrepreneurs and their culinary ventures.

Kemp said because of health restrictions, it's very difficult to run a food business out of a house.

"The problem is you need to have a licensed space to produce food," he said, adding that can cost anywhere from a quarter million to a half million dollars.

"That's a huge expense for someone," he said, adding "it's also a huge gamble," Kemp said.

Kemp said the set enables potential entrepreneurs to try out ideas and not spend a ton of money. Not every idea is a winner and a number of people start and then quit, but many are successful and that means more jobs than the original one or two people started things up.

"In food (production) people almost always have to start adding staff," he said.

The end game is that after a year or so, the business has attracted customers and the entrepreneur is ready to go borrow money and invest in his or her own space. He said the success rate of those who strike out on their own after going through the incubator program is very high.

"We provide technical support to help with business development," Kemp said. "We provide what we can on site or we coordinate with other programs like the Enterprise Center."

Sullivan said she thinks Lynn is in a great place to participate in the local food effort.

"It's close to Boston. The distribution of Lynn is great," Sullivan said, adding there's a big demand for shared kitchen space.

"It's an interesting opportunity for Lynn to capture a new industry," she said.

The North Shore Business Alliance and the Lynn Economic Development Industrial Corp. (EDIC) are also involved in the discussions, Sullivan said. Bill Bochnak, project coordinator at Lynn EDIC, said he's waiting to see what kind of a proposal might be put together. He said if it has merit, the EDIC would take a look at it.

Joyce Erekson can be reached at



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