Hubs of Hire
Linda Gilkerson of Indy’s Kitchen is not a chef or a baker. She opened Indy’s Kitchen, a shared commercial kitchen, to help other small businesses enter the burgeoning local food market. And Gina Zieniewicz, who makes her mother’s Italian biscotti, opened a shared commercial kitchen when she and her sisters couldn’t find one that met their needs.
Rita Franco accidentally got into the shared kitchen business when she moved into her stepfather’s space in Irvington to do a Mexican carryout business—La Mexi Gringa. While doing that, she ended up renting space, which eventually let to her starting her own shared commercial kitchen as she discovered she is passionate about helping others. She hopes to open another kitchen on the city’s south side, too.
These small business owners are part of a growing trend of kitchen incubators that allow food trucks, caterers, chefs and farmers’ market vendors to share space in a fully equipped commercial kitchen, licensed and inspected by the state or county health departments, where they can manufacture their products and take them to market in accordance with Indiana state laws.
While a 2009 Indiana law allows some home food operations for specific foods sold at farmers’ markets or roadside stands, most food businesses must use an inspected commercial kitchen to prepare food, according to Janelle Kaufman, food and consumer safety administrator at the Marion County Public Health Department.
“Churches have a lot of potential for shared kitchens,” Kaufman said. There are a few churches are on the list of shared Marion County kitchens. Linda Dernier of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church says they opened a commercial kitchen in 2011 after receiving a matching grant. Renters include a bakery owned by a parishioner.
One of the great benefits of shared commercial kitchens is cost. Julie Davis of Your Budget Catering has been working out of Indy’s Kitchen since 2012. She estimates it would have cost her $75,000 to $100,000 to open her own kitchen. “The environment is fantastic,” she says. While she eventually wants her own location, she adds that Indy’s Kitchen is allowing her to succeed now.
In April of 2015, CookSpring opened in Fort Wayne with a goal of helping start-ups eventually become self-sustaining, according to Spencer Mize, Director of Advancement at The Summit, which is home to CookSpring.
“A lot of people are good at cooking but not at business plans,” he adds.
There are many reasons why new businesses use shared commercial kitchens. It’s less risky than investing in one’s own commercial kitchen when the business is just starting up, and it avoids or delays the challenge of obtaining all the necessary permits. These kitchens are a huge help to entrepreneurs, businesses and the communities that benefit from the depth of goods produced at them.
Interested in learning more about public kitchens? Here’s a list of several in Central Indiana and other surrounding cities.
2442 N. Central Ave., Indianapolis
Contact person: Linda Gilkerson
Opened in 2010
Hourly rate: $20 for off-peak; $24 for peak; other charges for storage
The Flippin’ Kitchen (Allicarte Catering)
6129 E. Washington St., Indianapolis
Contact person: Rita Franco
Opened in 2015
No hourly rates/shifts and monthly rates
Northwood Christian Church
4550 Central Ave., Indianapolis
Contact person: Sherrie Proctor
Opened in 2015
Hourly rate: $10 ($50 month minimum)
St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church
8320 E. 10th St., Indianapolis
Contact person: Linda Dernier
Opened in 2011
Hourly rate: $15; additional storage fees
1025 W. Main St., Carmel
Contact person: Stephanie Lewis
Opened in 2010
Hourly rates: $20 for off-peak; $25 for peak; additional storage charges
CookSpring Fort Wayne
1025 W. Rudisill Blvd., Fort Wayne
Contact person: Spencer Mize
Opened in 2015
Hourly rates: $17.50 (based on membership)
Nana Clare’s Kitchen
3907 Calumet Ave., Valparaiso
Contact person: Gina Zieniewicz
Opened in 2012
Hourly rates: $24 and lower, varying
The Ohio River Valley Food Venture
975 Industrial Dr., Ste. 1, Madison
Contact person: Samantha Pierce
Opened in 2005
Hourly rate: $25; other charges for storage
For specific questions about permits, food safety and/or health issues, consult your local county health department or the Indiana State Department of Health’s Food Protection program’s website at in.gov/isdh.