Mother And Daughters Hope to Launch The Next Great Food Entrepreneur

By Wendy Culverwell Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.)

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) With "Red Mountain Commercial Kitchen" Owner Courtney Bauer and her two daughters hope to help food entrepreneurs launch the businesses of their dreams.

KENNEWICK, Wa.

The Mid-Columbia's newest commercial kitchen opens Dec. 1 in downtown Kennewick.

Red Mountain Commercial Kitchen is the brainchild of Chris Bauer and her daughters, Courtney Bauer and Alanna Lindblom. Together, they are converting the former Music Machine building, 212 W. Kennewick Ave., into a commercial food hub.

Where guitars and music gear once reigned, a commercial kitchen, baking kitchen, prep area, flex space, demonstration kitchen and washing facilities are nearly ready for vendors to get to work. Music Machine closed two years ago when owner Rick van Heel moved to Chicago.

Red Mountain Commercial Kitchen is modeled loosely on the Pasco Specialty Kitchen, a city-backed commercial kitchen that incubates food start-ups.

Like PSK, Red Mountain will rent commercial quality kitchen space to start-up businesses, with an eye to bolstering the local food scene.

Red Mountain, which is privately owned, is taking a more flexible approach to serving customers.

Kitchen space will rent by the hour rather than by membership.

Vendors aren't required to secure a local business license to use the kitchen, though they must have Washington Food Worker Cards and name the kitchen on their insurance.

Most clients will be food professionals, but not all. If someone wants to get all their canning for the year done at once, they can lease space to do it.

If a restaurant or food producer is branching into the Tri-City market and needs a place to demonstrate its product, the kitchen stands ready.

With Red Mountain, Courtney Bauer hopes to help the Mid-Columbia find its food voice.

She sees it as a perfect complement to Columbia Basin College's proposed culinary school at Port of Kennewick-owned property near the cable bridge.

"The wine industry begs for a good food industry," she said.

Chris and Courtney Bauer are both veteran entrepreneurs who were looking for a venture to pursue as a family. Maddie Bauer, the youngest of the Bauer sisters, provided the food inspiration.

Long the family chef, Maddie went through the Tri-Tech Skills Center's culinary program and then studied cooking and baking at the Oregon Coast Culinary Institute.

She moved home after working as a pastry chef at a posh Houston country club. She introduced her mother and siblings to the public's growing interest in food and food preparation. They were hooked.

Courtney said "The Mind of a Chef," a PBS series, opened her to creating a business that caters to chefs and food-related business.

The family initially contemplated creating a food truck pod with a small commissary kitchen.

The plan evolved as they realized the Mid-Columbia needs more commercial kitchen space.

Chris, who works as a Realtor, was the first to spot the "For Sale" sign at the old Music Machine, two joined buildings with independent basements. Her daughters poo-pooed the idea.

They'd taken piano lessons there in its Bishop Music days and knew the space. In its 90-plus years, the old music building had always been a retail space. It would need to be remodeled to accommodate a commercial kitchen, with suitable power connections, vent hoods, plumbing, commercial flooring and more.

It resurfaced a month later when Courtney scanned it in the commercial real estate listings. The notice included a floor plan, and she could see instantly how a commercial kitchen would fit into the two sides of the building. She shared it with her family.

They closed on the $273,000 deal last year, funded with personal savings and a loan from Baker Boyer Bank. They've been working to upgrade it for more than a year, while keeping their day jobs at Amazon.

In essence, they've built a new building inside the old walls, bringing most of it up to modern codes. The basements, mercifully, needed little work.

The old music storage rooms are re-purposed for drygoods storage for the ingredients vendors use in the kitchens above.

Courtney is eager to see future chefs take their first steps at Red Mountain, and to help the Tri-Cities shed its infatuation with chain restaurants.

"We're not in a food desert," she said. "There's no reason the Tri-Cities can't have a James Beard winner."

About the name: Red Mountain Kitchen is named to honor the pioneering wineries that set the stage for the Red Mountain AVA wine-grape growing area near Benton City. It helps brand the kitchen as a regional amenity.

Follow Red Mountain Kitchen's progress on Facebook @RedMountainKitchen.

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