This Kitchen Is in the Business of Empowering Local Entrepreneurs
CommonWealth Kitchen is a food incubator that's launching careers and bringing delicious food to underserved areas of Boston.
Formerly known as CropCircle Kitchen, CommonWealth Kitchen (CWK) is part of a growing food innovation movement taking place in the Boston area. For culinary entrepreneurs, CWK offers shared commercial kitchens and business assistance at their Dorchester and Jamaica Plain locations.
Voted Best Incubator by Boston Magazine for 2015, CWK is bringing a lot more than good food to the table. Their accolades include winning a $200,000 state grant, which will allow them to launch a local food manufacturing initiative intended to grow small businesses and create more food manufacturing jobs in Dorchester and Roxbury.
The incubator's food retailers produce a variety of globally-influenced products, sold all over Boston and beyond. Cassandria Campbell and Jackson Renshaw, co-founders of Fresh Food Generation, run a farm-to-plate food truck and catering business with the mission of improving access to food that is “good to you AND good for you.” They serve all of Greater Boston, but focus on underserved neighborhoods with limited access to quality foods. Their menu is influenced by Latin American and Caribbean cuisine, with specialities like jerk chicken and sweet plantains.
For another taste of the islands, vendor Blonde Beauchamp, owner of The Craic and Blonde, creates makes Pickliz [pronounced PICK-lese], a traditional Haitian condiment that is a sweet and spicy blend of pickled vegetables and habanero peppers. Producing through Commonwealth Kitchen has allowed Beauchamp to sell her product in over a dozen retail stores, including Formaggio Kitchen in the South End, Commonwealth in Cambridge, Shubies in Marblehead, and American Provisions in South Boston.
For dessert, try Third Cliff Bakery's herb-infused shortbreads. Owner Meg Crowley uses flavors like rosemary, lemon-thyme and lavender to add interest to the buttery tea-time snacks. There's even a bakery sweet on Boston sports; Bruins fans will appreciate Top Shelf Cookies, where owner Heather Yunger sells her signature Black & Golds — chewy, dark chocolate confections with peanut butter chips — which are best-sellers at the hockey team's home games. As Yunger writes on her website, “Hockey fans know the top shelf is where the best cookies are hidden.”
CWK's Executive Director and Co-Founder Jen Faigel thinks that those not familiar with their work would be surprised by the complexity of the operation. “We're coordinating and supporting 45-plus early stage wholesale and retail food companies in a shared kitchen facility.” They also provide marketing help, hiring assistance, and a whole range of other business support services. Faigel, who previously worked in affordable housing, was looking for a job that would help empower people and improve their economic reality in more ways than putting a roof over their head. "The idea of focusing on sustainable employment and wealth creation resonated strongly for me,” she says. With the non-profit currently going through a large expansion — going from a staff of three with a budget around $300,000 in 2013 to a staff of more than twelve and a budget of $1.3 million in 2015 — Faigel feels they are meeting their goals.
CWK is making good on their mission to support entreprenurs in underserved communties, while serving customers some of the tastiest food around Boston. The proof is in the Pickliz.
CommonWealth Kitchen - 196 Quincy St., Dorchester, commonwealthkitchen.org