Adam Daigle The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) "Cultivation Kitchen" is a new food incubator located in Louisiana. The baking kitchen has two double convection ovens, and both will be available 24 hours a day with the baking kitchen at a cost of $20 an hour and the mixing kitchen at $10 an hour. #sweetsuccess
It wasn't long after a customer tried to spit in her face to protest her store's mask mandate that Robin Bugge left her job in retail management.
The bigger issue? She had no other job lined up.
At that point, she says looking back, the time had come. She quit, connected with a longtime assistant manager and started doing gigs on the side before the two launched their own bakery, calling it Bready or Knot, Here We Crumb. What started out as a home-based business will soon move into a new kitchen incubator that will open inside Tops Appliances & Cabinetry, 5826 Johnston St.
For Bugge and her partner, Dora Poitevint, it could put them on a track to really grow the business as sort of a second career. Their business offers a variety of breads, waffles, crackers and a pineapple upside down cake that keep selling out.
"Both of us were burned out from our retail jobs," said Bugge, a native of central Oregon. "The pandemic hit, and everything was so much more stressful. I packed up my office, called a meeting and said, 'I'm done, ya'll. I can't be who you need me to be.' I quit, and the sun didn't stop coming up and the Earth was still rotating. (Dora) moved here from Dallas, and we just started experimenting."
Their business will operate out of Cultivation Kitchen, a kitchen incubator program led by Tops Appliances owner Sherry Latour, Boyer Derise with Good Eats Kitchen, Tara Guidry with Cajun Crate with Daphne Olivier with The Unconventional Dietician.
Located near the back of the building, Cultivation Kitchen includes two rentable spaces, each 400 square feet, with one used for baking and the other used for mixing, Tops owner Sherry Latour said. The baking kitchen has two double convection ovens, and both will be available 24 hours a day with the baking kitchen at a cost of $20 an hour and the mixing kitchen at $10 an hour.
The space was necessary after the Acadiana Food Hub, which had a commercial kitchen for aspiring food entrepreneurs, closed last summer because of the pandemic. And with it went that place that would allow anyone operating at home under the state's cottage food laws to make that next step.
"We knew there was a demand," Derise said. "We talked to tenants who had nowhere to go. We just saw a need for this. LSU has a cultivation kitchen. Acadiana is known for its food. Everybody knows somebody who makes something. It's a chance to grow some food-based economic diversity for the region."
The building found a home inside the 68,000-square-foot building that Latour has opened to other businesses. With a background in the oil business, she bought the property in 2009 and realized it was in a space that was well oversized for the business.
She began subdividing it and bringing along other businesses while pursuing her passion of helping other businesses succeed, but it was a call from the late Hammy Davis with the Acadiana Food Hub about opening a kitchen incubator that helped nudge her passion into an opportunity.
"Once COVID hit and all the broken systems came to light of how we farm and how we buy groceries," Latour said, "I was like, 'Now the world is ready for my dream. I'm going for it.' The whole ecosystem is really my dream.
"As a woman in the oil field, I was told no a lot. This is where I can support and pass it along and give encouragement. I can spot the new entrepreneur coming up and say, 'You've got what it takes.'"
The kitchen opens at a time in which the number of startups continues to rise due to the pandemic and the job losses or reductions associated with it. Much like Bugge who left her job, others are opting to redefine themselves or transition into other fields in a transitioning economy.
Nationally, the number of startup in 2020 jumped 24%, according to data from the Peterson Institute of International Economics. In Louisiana, U.S. Census data shows a huge spike in business applications at the start of the pandemic, from just under 4,000 in March 2020 to over 14,000 in July.
"I think Acadiana in general — whether it's because of the oil industry or not — is a community of entrepreneurs," Derise said. "There are a lot of people willing to take the risk and do something. I think a lot of people have the desire to do something in the food space, especially with the shift to e-commerce we've seen. People can come in and be helped along the path to take their product to market." ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.