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Community-shared kitchen launched at Madison Barracks to afford small business opportunities


SACKETS HARBOR — Small-business owners seeking to expand production and tap into commercial markets may now rent the 1,500-square-foot kitchen at the Madison Barracks complex to do so, thanks to a partnership between owner Lawler Development and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County.

Extension staff helped Lawler acquire 20-C certification for the kitchen from the state Department of Agriculture and Markets. The certification will enable food processors to package, market and sell a range of products at bakeries, grocery stores and wholesale food manufacturers.

An open house to celebrate the launch of the shared-use kitchen will be hosted from 2 to 3:30 p.m. today, including guided tours of the facility with elected officials. Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, will be in attendance.

The 1,500 square-foot kitchen includes gas ranges, ovens, refrigerated and dry storage space, and a loading dock. It’s available to rent 24 hours a day from Sunday through Thursday. The kitchen already is reserved on Fridays and Saturdays by DeVito’s Catering, Sackets Harbor.

The kitchen is expected to be especially useful for small-business owners who have special recipes for value-added products they’d like to launch, said Steven W. Ledoux, local foods community educator at the Jefferson County extension. That could include farmers interested in selling packaged vegetables and fruits to schools, for example, or small bakeries that need access to a large kitchen.

“For certain things, you can get home-kitchen certification as a business owner, but you’re only limited to a small amount,” Mr. Ledoux said. “Because it’s already certified by the state, this kitchen is a place where you can produce most products.”

The first tenant to rent the shared kitchen is the Spicy Wench, a Watertown-based business started by Christine E. Hoffman in 2011. Mrs. Hoffman, who will start using the Barracks kitchen this week, said the space will enable her business to expand production of pepper and fruit jellies sold at festivals and on its website, Mrs. Hoffman previously rented commercial space at The Farm House Kitchen in Sackets Harbor, but the space there became too small as the business increased sales.

“I now have dry good storage for all of my raw materials at this kitchen and don’t have to carry them back and forth from my house,” said Mrs. Hoffman, who plans to use the kitchen about 15 hours a week. She said she thinks the shared space will be in high demand among small agribusinesses.

“You have a lot of people that grow stuff and want to get into doing value-added products, and a lot of those things require a commercial kitchen,” she said. “This makes it possible for them to foray into the commercial market.”

Kevin J. Jordan, executive director of the Jefferson County extension, said launching the community-shared kitchen fits the organization’s goal of providing tools for small businesses involved in the local-foods movement. The extension secured a grant this year from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for about $96,000 to hire Mr. Ledoux, a beef farmer from Croghan. Mr. Ledoux, along with other staff members, organized several new efforts to bolster the local-foods movement in the region.

“The staff has worked to identify certain barriers, and not having a facility like this for food processors was one of them,” Mr. Jordan said. “Kitchens are a huge capital investment not every business can make, and this is an affordable space available to anyone. Our goal is to provide technical assistance to those who need it and let the private sector do what it does best — grow their own businesses.”

Corry J. Lawler, managing member of Lawler Development, said he is excited to put the Madison Barracks kitchen into good use. The developer is building a 90-unit apartment complex at the site.

“We think this is going to be a good thing for small businesses, and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure it’s successful,” Mr. Lawler said.

Hourly rates for tenants renting the kitchen from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. are $10 for those who use it 25 to 40 hours per week; $12 for 21 to 24 hours; $14 for 13 to 20 hours; $18 for four to 12 hours, and $22 for one to three hours. A $2 reduction in hourly rates will be applied for time scheduled outside peak hours.

Interested tenants should call Betsey Nichols from the state Ag and Markets Syracuse office at 487-0852 to schedule an appointment.

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