It’s a gift to be able to look at a raw space and imagine its ginormous potential – to see the beauty in dusty crags and naked support beams.
The Commissary partners Kate Djupe and Steve Concilla have that gift. As we walk through the saw-dusted bones of the Dublin Road space, their words and enthusiasm bring to life an indoor theme park for all rest stops on the foodie highway.
While the idea of The Commissary has been knocking on Djupe’s mind for years, it recently entered the Columbus consciousness loud and clear through its Kickstarter campaign. Starting last month and ending July 10th, the video is peppered with local food heroes – from superstar Cameron Mitchell to indie kings Kevin Caskey and even a beachside shout-out from former Freshstreet owners Kenny Kim and Misako Ohba – offering their support and excitement.
Djupe’s vision for the commissary took hold years ago when she was a student at the Culinary Institute of Art in Hyde Park, New York. It was there that her interest in craft butchery blossomed, as well being introduced to the two-sided coin of sustainability and local foods. While honing her knife skills in that August institution, Djupe dreamed about one day tossing up a butcher shingle, creating artisan sausages and the like, all the while encouraging members of the food community to stop in for sharing and learning.
Expanding beyond the meat focus, Djupe started brainstorming about a place where the inspiration sharing would go beyond the intricacies of meat, where chefs of all kinds and farmers could meet and “play” with ingredients. Her commissary aspiration percolated in the background while she worked the line at such local gems as Handke’s and Trattoria Roma. The idea bubbled forth once again seven years ago when Djupe had a baby and started making her own baby food. “It was easy and no one was doing it, I thought I could make baby food and sell it at farm markets,” she said. “But then I found out that you can’t do something like that without a commercial kitchen.”
The Commissary will have an up-to-code commercial kitchen space for not only small start-ups to rent, but also for established eateries that need more space to, for example, fulfill catering requests. There will be the warhorses of the kitchen – awesome stoves, stand-mixers, proof boxes, walk-ins, dry goods storage, but there will also be creative tools, such as sous vide machines and anti-griddles so makers can toy with ideas or indulge their molecular cuisine curiousity. In the world of small food businesses, added Concilla, it’s expensive enough to have a basic kitchen, much less afford some of the more specific gadgets, whereas at The Commissary, everyone will have access to all the tools in this community box. There will also be secure parking for food trucks, with electrical hook-ups for each. An avid supporter of local food, Djupe met her partner, Concilla, through the window of his mobile food venture, That Food Truck. “She was a regular and we got to talking,” he said.
Walking through the building on a warm June day, the skylights glowing in the midday sun, the pair go from room to room, weaving their words into vision. “In here, Actual Brewing will have a 20-gallon brewing system, Amelia Beerheart, and there will be home brewing classes and, like, a wedding party could come in and make a personal brew for their wedding…we’re also going to have a coffee roasting machine that people can come in and use.”
On Fridays and Saturdays, there will be space for a party or pop-up restaurant, Concilla said, adding that The Commissary will be open to its members 24 hours a day. Stopping by one room of the 16,000 square foot building, Concilla describes some of the less sexy services The Commissary will provide, the “back office” help. “There’s a conference room, a nicer room for makers to meet with a lawyer, for example,” said Concilla. “We’re going to offer help with business plans, logistics, stuff like that that a lot of small businesses don’t know to even think about.”
“Like, we’ll have a copy machine – that’ll solve the problem of trying to go to Kinko’s in a 30-foot food truck to copy menus.”
The Commissary hopes to be open this fall, when all these words will become reality, kicking off with a parking lot party for Kickstarter supporters. “I’m excited and scared, but everyday I have a conversation with someone who can’t wait for us to open,” said Concilla.