Foodie ideas simmering at Hope & Main

Lisa Raiola (center, in red pants) breaks ground on the Hope & Main kitchen incubator Friday morning, with others who were instrumental in the $3.2 million project's funding. Lisa Raiola (center, in red pants) breaks ground on the Hope & Main kitchen incubator Friday morning, with others who were instrumental in the $3.2 million project's funding.

hopemain_t670Lisa Raiola has taken to calling people by the foods they love, not their names — it’s easier to remember them all, she said.

There’s the granola lady. The salsa woman. A food truck person, and others.

“There have been so many,” said Ms. Raiola, who founded the Hope & Main kitchen incubator that is slowly taking shape in the old Main Street School.

Ms. Raiola has met all of them and others over the past several weeks, as she and other Hope & Main board members have begun hosting informational sessions geared toward would-be food entrepreneurs who want to rent space in the incubator.

Another session is planned for 9 a.m. this coming Saturday, Nov. 9; it will he held at the old I Shalom handkerchief factory at 569 Main St.

The sessions are for entrepreneurs who want to learn more about how to rent out space in the incubator, and learn how the non-profit can help them turn their ideas for foods and other goods into marketable, salable products.

Close to 30 prospective “incubees” came out to the first session last Monday, and Ms. Raiola said she was not surprised to see people with a wide variety of ideas and products.

“It went from people who want to make hot sauce, to some pickling people; one has a culinary background, it’s a husband and wife. They’re doing it out of their home right now.”

Another fellow brought in an idea for “Mike’s Magic Brownies.” Ms. Raiola said she was curious what made them so magical, and he told her that “what’s different is the love that’s put into them.”

There were others, including people who want to make cupcakes and pastries, a woman with an idea for smoothies, and another who wants to take an under-utilized local resource, the slipper shell, and harvest and market it. There was even someone who wants to start a mobile food truck business.

The first “class” of incubees is expected to total about 40 people, and Ms. Raiola said the plan is to have Hope and Main ready for them by the beginning of June 2014.

Lisa Raiola (center, in red pants) breaks ground on the Hope & Main kitchen incubator Friday morning, with others who were instrumental in the $3.2 million project's funding.

Lisa Raiola (center, in red pants) breaks ground on the Hope & Main kitchen incubator this past summer, with others who were instrumental in the $3.2 million project’s funding.

In the meantime,people who want to rent out space will have to have formalities, including food service licenses, taken care of. She estimates it will take people three months to complete all the steps required by the state to use the incubator; so those interested in joining the first class should attend a session; Hope and Main can help with the necessary steps, she said, but it will take time.

“There’s a lot to it,” she said, adding that there is clearly a need for the help Hope and Main can provide.

“As I’m out there hearing what people need, as much as they need the space they need guidance,” she said. “We’re prepared to help people work through all these steps.”

Warren residents are eligible for zero interest loans to help pay tuition; all others will pay $25 per hour, available in four-hour blocks. There are also fees for cold and dry storage and a one time membership fee.

“That’s pretty standard from the other incubators we’ve seen.”

Hope and Main was made possible by a $3 million loan from the United States Department of Agriculture; Hope & Main purchased the old Main Street School last year from the Town of Warren.

Note: For more information on the sessions or Hope & Main in general, see www.makefoodyourbusiness.org, or see Hope & Main’s Facebook page.

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