DES MOINES, Iowa — There is nothing outwardly special about a small building in the Drake neighborhood chalked full of commerical kitchen applicances but it is helping entreprenuers with their dream of owning their own restaurant.
Bob Mulvihill purchased the building at 1139 24th Street a few years ago and created Kitchen Spaces. The 3,600 square – foot building has four commercial kitchens which Mulvihill rents outs for cheap to mostly minority restaurateurs.
“I just saw a a need for fit,” explains Mulvihill. “It enables people to get started with their business.”
The space removes the barrier for black – owned establishments to get their start. It helps business owners learn business practices, time management and food costs without the financial burden of leasing their own space. Business owners end up paying less than a thousand dollars for their license and food safety certification and rent the space by the hour when working at Kitchen Spaces.
Seneca Brown has rented a space at the community kitchen for a few years. She owns, Taste of Soul Home Cooking, a catering business born out of her kitchen at home.
“We grew up like that, people selling plates out of your homes or from church,” smiles Brown. “Everybody loved my cooking.” A culinary school dropout, Brown left school but kept cooking the type of food she was brought up eating, soul food. She dreamt of opening up her own soul food restaurant for years especially after moving to Des Moines from Chicago.
“It’s always been in my heart and my spirit and this is what I’ve wanted to do,” she explains. “Everyone wants soul food but they just can’t find it here.” Working out of Kitchen Spaces allows Brown to build and diversify her customer base while saving money to open a brick and mortar restaurant.
Soul food originated in the south when enslaved people were given leftovers, scraps and unwanted cuts of meats from their slaves owners. Foods like cornbread, collard greens and fried chicken and fish and black – eyed peas became staples.
Data from the the Iowa Restaurant Association shows of the 6, 000 bar and restaurant establishments in the state, only 120 of them are black – owned. The association says it is always actively promoting diversity of not just food but of owners and operators in the hospitality industry and would love to see this number grow.
Kitchen Spaces calls its incubator kitchen, “the way of the future” as a way of maximizing food production of several small business from under one roof.