Union Kitchen, the popular kitchen incubator, is just a few inspections away from opening their second home. The $2.5 million project has turned a once abandoned Ivy City warehouse into a hub of food entrepreneurship.
The second outpost features an industrial-style look. Added space, new equipment and flexible work stations will bring new opportunities to Union Kitchen members.
Almost three years ago, the kitchen incubator first opened its doors in a warehouse just north of Union Station. Since then, Union Kitchen has built its membership to include more than 50 food start-ups. Most recently, the kitchen opened a retail storefront, called Union Kitchen Grocery, on Capitol Hill.
When the Ivy City location opens in mid-August, it should help alleviate some of the space and equipment constraints, according to Cullen Gilchrist, co-founder of Union Kitchen.
Just how big is the Ivy City location? It's more than double the size of the current kitchen, and Gilchrist seems giddy about the refrigerator and freezer space. It's large enough to park four cars inside it.
"The whole purpose for this expansion was more space for more members. But also, more space for each individual member, so they can focus on growing their business," Gilchrist says.
Union Kitchen is leasing about 16,000 square feet and sharing the building with another tenant — upcoming distillery Republic Restoratives. The kitchen is divided between two floors and designed to be flexible for members. The first floor has work stations specifically for food businesses like Undone Chocolate and Adam's Rib. These members rent out a portion of the kitchen for their own personal use and can also install specialty equipment, like an oversized smoker. Meanwhile, the upstairs is more of a flexible co-working space. There are open workstations, a demonstration kitchen, and a conveyor belt dishwasher.
While the new space offers more cooktops and ovens, that doesn't mean the original Congress Street location is closing any time soon. Gilchrist explains, "The goal was not to replace Congress Street with Ivy City. We're staying there, and some of our members prefer that location because it's closer in to the city."
Union Kitchen's Cullen Gilchrist and Mary Beth Marks
Distribution will be a key focus for Ivy City. The location is adjacent to major roadways like New York Avenue, and highways like Route 50 and 295. Plus, the space has useful features for producers, including a delivery bay, freight elevator, and storage shelves. The kitchen equipment also supports packaging in volume.
"Instead of $18 pickles, maybe you’ll see something like $9 pickles. It’s savings that we can pass on," says Gilchrist.
The goal for the next year will be to grow production volume, so members can make a bigger impact on the D.C. market and beyond. Some Union Kitchen producers have already expanded to cities like Baltimore and Philadelphia.
When Ivy City opens later this month, approximately 15 members will work from the space. Additional members will come on-board in September, and the space is large enough that 200 people can work in the building at any given time.