Sometimes, Austin Green goes out into the wild — if food truck courts, breweries and the streets of Richmond count as wilderness — to find potential clients.
Green, the executive director of Hatch Kitchen RVA, says the idea to develop the 9,000-square-foot space came from exploring the needs of the city’s food and beverage industry alongside co-founder Brad Cummings. When they teamed up with business partners to develop more than 15 tobacco warehouses on Maury Street, the project began to fall into place.
“We’re here to help the companies grow,” he says, pointing to the commissary kitchens and food stations. “But we also invest our time as part of that membership, helping them with whatever they need.”
At Hatch, this can mean assisting members with accounting, connecting them with investors, mentors or inspectors and teaming up with local businesses to hold professional development courses.
Members pay $750 monthly to have 24/7 unlimited use of the kitchen with access to cold and dry food storage for an extra cost. Since opening in January, Green has already seen a community grow among its 34 members.
“There’s a lot of collaboration going on. People share contacts, we’ve had people help each other out when [food] trucks break down,” Green says. “It’s been special. … It’s just going to keep getting more interesting.”
At the beginning of next year, Hatch is expanding the passion project with an adjacent 2,000-square-foot cafe and event space that will include seven private kitchens, an area dedicated to bakers and a fully automated bottling line for products such as sauces and juices.
The smaller spaces will be saved for companies that need to avoid cross-contamination to ensure food is either gluten-free, certified kosher, soy- or nut-free. Also in the works is an on-site U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector and a space for packaging meat products for wholesale. Items produced and packaged in the space will carry a USDA stamp, opening up new growth opportunities for businesses such as butcher shops that could previously only sell directly to consumers.
One of Hatch’s newest developments is a food truck corral near the entrance where as many as 14 trucks can park, plug in and keep food refrigerated.
“We’re always reaching for that next step,” Green says. “People deserve to have beautiful places to make their products. … Our chefs, our creators here, they deserve it.” — by Sabrina MorenoBack to The Innovation Issue