Clovis Culinary Center a Gourmet Proving Ground
The Business Journal, October 21, 2022
Ben Hensley – Staff Writer
Since the implementation of AB 1616 – also known as the “Cottage Food Act” – in 2013, the cottage food industry has been required to follow food safety practices that for some can be difficult to afford.
For prospective food-business owners, this posed a potential challenge setting limitations on at-home preparation of food products and possibly forcing these budding businesses to invest heavily in brick-and mortar establishments.
The Clovis Culinary Center at 3185 Willow Avenue has provided an alternative to the expensive prospect of purchasing or constructing a storefront, enabling up-and-coming businesses to generate revenue at brick-and-mortar establishment levels without the direct investment of a storefront.
A combination of the passing of AB 1616 and the closure of the Central Valley Business Incubator led to the City of Clovis brainstorming the concept of the culinary center.
“We realized that these people can’t make over $50,000 a year and continue creating this stuff in their house,” said Shawn Miller, business development manager at the City of Clovis.
Opened in 2018, the Clovis Culinary Center serves as an incubator for local businesses hoping to get off the ground. According to Miller, around 30 organizations utilize the center, ranging from for-profit businesses and catering companies to nonprofit organizations.
Some well-known Valley businesses including Dad’s Cookies and St. Francis Homeless Project utilize the space.
“Dad’s Cookies was a ‘pandemic baby,’” Miller said. “Guy moved in there and just struck gold, and he has since moved into a brick and mortar.”
Businesses utilizing the space can handle payment and scheduling through an app, with hourly usage reates starting at $40 and hour for businesses using the center fewer than 20 hours a month. As the usage hours go up, the cost goes down., the center charging $23.50 an hour for 30 or more hours, and $17.50 and hour for businesses using the center more than 40 hours a month.
“The have a really food software program set up online to where you can’t overbook,” said owner of Dad’s Cookies, Lance Sanchez. “I joke around and sometimes call it ‘Hell’s Kitchen,’ be sometimes, there are a lot of people in there, which I like because it’s an incubator kitchen.”
Sanchez adds that the additional traffic ton the kitchen gives budding food-business entrepreneurs the opportunity to experience the “rush” of a real restaurant.
“They would never overbook to the where you couldn’t function,” Sanchez said. “We ere always able to complete our tasks, but sometimes it would be in a room where there were a lot of people.”
The Center also offers cutting and packaging time allotments at $15 an hour, and also offers nighttime discounts, which Miller says can cut process by four or five dollars per hour.
“We provide everything that has to be plugged in, Miller said. “We have a 30-quart mixer; we have two six-burner ranges.” The center also provides a stock pot burner, two convection ovens, refrigerators and freezer space, sinks, and other necessary appliances.
Small appliances such as pressure cookers, hand mixers, and others are not provided by the center, although they do provide ample storage space for clients to store their own equipment.
Storage is free for anyone using the center for more than 40 hours per month, with storage for groups or individuals using the center 20-40 hours per week costing $100 per month.
“Most of the people that are in there operating are over 40 hours, so the storage is included in the price,” Miller said. “It’s kind of common that we have to go around and make sure that people aren’t storing their entire kitchen.”
The center also offers start-up business services including classed on feed photography, as well as business and marketing plan development classes.
“We provide a whole bunch of support that will help these people grow their business onto something that’s pretty vibrant.” Miller said.
Individuals interested in scheduling appointments at the center can contact Kris Marshall at (559) 760-1016
Ben Hensley, Writer can be reached at: 490-3461 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org