CommonWealth Kitchen, a Dorchester-based nonprofit that helps food startups get off the ground, is settling into its new permanent home in the 36,000-square-foot Bornstein and Pearl Food Production Small Business Center.
“Today is an awesome and auspicious day,” said Jen Faigel, executive director and co-founder of CommonWealth Kitchen. “After what has been truly one of the most difficult, grueling and exhausting 18 months of all of our lives, and certainly in my career, I’m thrilled to say we’re home.”
Although the organization had been renting the space as the anchor tenant since 2014, this announcement marked the purchase of the building from the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation.
Faigel said that CommonWealth Kitchen, which was founded in 2009 as CropCircle, had a “modest dream” to “help (start) businesses, create jobs, through barriers to entry, improve food access, and build a good economy grounded in racial, social and economic justice,” she said.
Since then, she said the organization has helped start 150 food businesses, over half of which are still in operation. Of those businesses, 75% were owned by people of color and women, pre-pandemic.
The organization helps food businesses in three core areas: supplying the use of a commercial kitchen, providing business and market access programs for members and manufacturing support.
CommonWealth Kitchen’s restaurants include Jamaica Mi Hungry, which is soon to have three locations, Exodus Bagels, 50Kitchen and Noodle Lab, which are located throughout Boston.
The organization has also helped its businesses get onto grocery shelves at stores including Stop & Shop and Whole Foods. One of its businesses, Beckon Ice Cream, is sold in Whole Foods stores nationwide.
Faigel also thanked the City of Boston for its initial $500,000 investment, which led to later investments from state and federal organizations. The City of Boston funded $2.5 million through a Housing and Urban Development grant to help purchase the building, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts supplied $2.5 million in loans to supplement the total sticker price of $8.8 million.
Acting Mayor Kim Janey, who attended the event, called herself a “foodie,” and reminded attendees that food is “a basic human right.” She touted CommonWealth Kitchen as a “hub of small, diverse food companies.”
“CWK’s mission is more important than ever before, particularly as we emerge, hopefully, from a global pandemic that has wreaked havoc on this industry, right here in this city,” said CommonWealth Kitchen’s Co-Chair and Board Member Lori Smith Britton. “But we’re going to fix that.”
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