By Samantha Madison The Sentinel, Carlisle, Pa.
It's expensive to start a business, but equipment and requirements can especially break the bank when that new company is in the food industry.
Keith Behney, general manager of Sherri's Fun Foods, said he understands the process -- seeing as how he was only recently able to get a kitchen with a hood system for Sherri's Crab Cakes, which he started in 1996.
"When I think about the costs of starting up, it's incredible," he said. "I remember when I started up, the deposit on the gas was like $1,200 or $2,000, and that's just one cost. Then you've got your down payment on the rent, the first and last month's rent; the costs are astronomical. That was the biggest surprise when I went to rent a building -- that you had to put deposits down on the gas and electric."
Behney said that a lot of food businesses discover that finding a kitchen is one of the major obstacles to getting started because it requires getting approval from the health department and keeping up on that approval. And since Behney has a food truck business with Sherri's Crab Cakes, he recognized that others could be facing the same issue he did in the Midstate.
So with that understanding, Behney has opened up his health department-compliant commercial kitchen space offices and storage warehouse in Camp Hill for other entrepreneurs to rent by the hour or month.
"To help offset the cost of a big warehouse like this (one), we decided to put in a hood system and seek other people that needed a commercial kitchen because we have all the approvals," Behney said. "It's tough for small businesses. So they can come in and rent the kitchen by the hour. In that case they would just bring in all their own products. Or they could have a permanent presence here, so they would store things here and work out of here on a more regular basis."
Sherri's Fun Foods operates Sherri's Crab Cakes, a food truck at festivals and other events up and down the East Coast, from about April to October, Behney said.
The commercial kitchen, located at 1909 State St., in Camp Hill, is one of the only ones for rent in the Midstate. The facility just received its inspection approval from the health department in August, so it's up and running and ready for other businesses to use.
The facility includes a commercial kitchen, refrigerator, freezer and dry storage for executive chefs, food trucks, gourmet/specialty/seasonal food production, caterers, fundraisers and entrepreneurs in need of commercial kitchen facilities.
The co-working kitchen features enough space for storage and basic office amenities, plus on-site parking and a walk-in cooler and freezer, and all utilities and facility fees are included in the cost of rent.
If a business wants to rent out the kitchen, it would only need to go to the Camp Hill Borough office and check in with the health inspector there to make sure that everything is OK with their company, Behney said.
Since advertising the kitchen, Behney said, he has had a handful of businesses express interest, but he's still looking for other small companies that are interested in using the space. He said not only does it help fund his own business, but it also helps other small businesses get started.
"I think that it helps us defray our cost of having a whole building because, if you think about it, our business is seasonal," he said. "And the kitchen basically sits here all winter long. It (also) creates opportunities for other businesses.
The goal would be that this would become a viable business that would really help small food companies get off the ground and help them to actually be able to survive."