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Look for the “D.C. made” label to start showing up on even more artisan food and drink products next year. Union Kitchen, which provides professional kitchen space and other resources for local food entrepreneurs, announced today that it plans to open a second facility at 1369 New York Ave. NE, in Ivy City, at the end of 2014. The new location will triple the food incubator’s square footage and allow it to add an estimated 70 additional food business members. Currently, Union Kitchen’s NoMa facility hosts 55 members, including Capital Kombucha, DC Patisserie, and Glover’s Pepper Sauce.
Since its opening over a year ago, co-founder Jonas Singer says he’s received around 450 applicants and inquiries about joining Union Kitchen. While not all were viable businesses, many were, and limited capacity forced the incubator to turn people away. At the same time, a lot of the businesses that already work out of Union Kitchen have been growing quickly and needed more storage space and bigger assembly lines.
The two-story Ivy City facility will include event space, as well as a cafe and market where Union Kitchen members can sell products made there. The large digs also mean dedicated kitchens for medium-sized businesses and possibly a kosher-only kitchen, a USDA-certified meat prep kitchen, and a vegan kitchen.
Union Kitchen also began a pilot distribution system about six weeks ago, so it can help its members more easily get on more store shelves and help retailers stock more local products without having to go through 30 different vendors individually. So far, Union Kitchen has partnered with Davenport Coffee Shop, which is part of American University’s student union, and Mrs. Green’s Organic Market in Fairfax to deliver everything from soups to baked goods to kombucha. The new Ivy City facility will allow Union Kitchen to expand its distribution even further.
Singer sees Union Kitchen’s expansion is a reflection of the huge appetite for locally made food. He hopes that they’ll be able to create a new “entrepreneurial middle class in the food system.” Brooklyn, watch out.
Photo by Jessica Sidman