NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

January 4, 2013

A place for 'foodpreneurs'

Shared-use commercial kitchen will be first on North Shore

By Katie Lovett
Features Editor

---- — Few people can truly say they have their dream job.

Lisa Sutton, 53, is now one of them.

For the last several months, the Amesbury resident has been hard at work bringing one of her long-held passions to life. Sutton is the founder and owner of Kitchen Local, the North Shore’s first certified shared-use commercial kitchen that cooks and bakers can rent by the hour. There are only three other such kitchens in the state.

The shared kitchen concept — which is more common and widely popular in other states — is ideal for individuals who have an idea for a product but lack the necessary commercial kitchen space to create it, Sutton said. Kitchen Local, which is located in the Cedar Street Studios building, will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Sutton has been familiar with the shared kitchen concept for some time. Her older brother, John, owns his own catering company in Austin, Texas, and since he began it 12 years ago, he has been cooking in a shared commercial kitchen near his home, she said. She’s always heard him talk of the kitchen — how great the concept is and how well it works, she said.

Then, last spring, when faced with some life-changing moments, Sutton, the former director of fund development at Opportunity Works in Newburyport, says she began to seriously reconsider what she wanted to do as a career and sought to pinpoint what type of job would truly make her happy.

With her three kids growing older, Sutton says she is at a point now where she can devote energy and time to exploring new opportunities. She reflected on her passions and briefly mulled the idea of opening a quiche business, she said.

Then, she thought back to her other dream: to open her own shared-use commercial kitchen here in Amesbury. She knew instantly that the 14 Cedar Street Studios would be the perfect spot for her business, she said.

“It was an ‘a-ha’ moment,” she said “I jumped in. It just felt right. I’ve always wanted to do something in the food industry.”

For the last several months, Sutton’s vision has been coming to life as crews from Build-It Construction Services in New Hampshire have been busy creating two work spaces in the kitchen, which is set to open in the next few weeks. She’s spent her days meeting with prospective clients, setting up her webpage, Facebook page and marketing her business.

Sutton’s also had to navigate through Amesbury’s planning and zoning process in order to secure the necessary permits to open Kitchen Local. When approached with her business model, city officials embraced it, despite their initial unfamiliarity with the concept, she said. The city has created a special new application just for Kitchen Local clients.

“I’ve received so much support from the community,” Sutton said.

When they arrive and start cooking, clients will find a modern workspace that includes a three-compartment sink, a prep sink, two hand sinks, a double gas oven with six burners and a flat top, 30-quart steam kettle, double convection oven, a 40-quart floor mixer, a walk-in refrigerator, a double freezer, portioning tables, prep tables and a food processor.

They will also have a selection of baking sheets, pots and pans, cooking utensils, utility carts and baking racks to choose from, Sutton said, although each client will also have dry and cold storage spaces where they can keep their own tools and cookware if they wish.

Since word has began to spread about Kitchen Local, Sutton says she’s been fielding calls from numerous small-scale food producers, eager to learn more about the commercial kitchen space and how it works.

Among her prospective clients are a BBQ caterer, a food cart vendor and a cupcake maker, as well as individuals who make desserts, breads, BBQ sauce, Mediterranean food, soups and baby food.

“They’re all so unique,” Sutton said.

“Clients are both new businesses and businesses looking to expand,” she added. “Some are businesses (who sell) at private events, farmers markets, fairs and online.”

She also has some clients who will sell business-to-business, such as to restaurants, specialty food markets or grocery stores.

As Sutton gets ready to open her doors, she’s excited to be a new local small business, helping other small business owners as they strive to grow and expand.

She plans to offer seminars for her clients, as well, that will focus on topics such as marketing their products, food safety and menu planning. She hopes to see her clients buying locally grown ingredients and selling locally.

“It’s so exciting,” she said.