The doors to the long-anticipated Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Culinary Enterprises are finally open.
The West Philadelphia-based, 13,000 square foot, multi-use center will provide culinary entrepreneurs with the opportunity to rent commercial kitchen space, and access to the resources needed for business growth and success.
The center — a project of The Enterprise Center (TEC) — has been nine years in the making. The development seeks to turn what was once a former, dilapidated supermarket into a new hub for economic development.
TEC officials held a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday morning to mark the opening of the facility, at 310 South 48th St. in West Philadelphia.
Della Clark, president of TEC, says the new culinary center should be viewed as an engine to accelerate job creation.
“While this can be viewed as an incubator, we really want you to leave with the impression that this is an accelerator,” Clark told the entrepreneurs, business, community and government officials who attended the grand opening.
“What we’re looking for is expediency into job creation. When you take a tour of this facility, it’s not about a kitchen, it’s not about a stove or a refrigerator — what we are talking about here is jobs,” says Clark.
“What we are a talking about here is opening innovation and creativity and the doors of the Center for Culinary Enterprises so that entrepreneurs can come in, perfect their product, perfect their cuisine, hire people and create jobs.”
To that end, the center projects to launch or accelerate at least 10 new food businesses per year. CCE officials will work to place 50 individuals annually in workforce positions in the culinary industry and train 100 high school students in restaurant and hospitality management.
Clark is encouraging institutions such as University of Pennsylvania and Drexel to purchase products from the culinary center.
For Zana Billue, owner of Zana Cakes, Inc. the new facility has been a long time coming. Billue, who assisted TEC with developing a feasibility study for the center, says having access to the center will enable her to expand her specialty dessert company. She’s excited that the kitchen incubator is finally open.
“It’s going to give me the opportunity to expand the business because now I can bake at a higher volume than I’ve been able to bake before. So that will allow me to generate more money and hopefully hire one or two more people to assist,” says Billue, whose business specializes in making assorted pound cakes for corporate and individual clients.
She says working out of the center will makes her business marketable to clients who were concerned that she didn’t have the capacity to handle larger orders.
“It also, for lack of a better word, legitimizes your business,” she added.
The center features four licensed, state-of-the-art, shared-use commercial kitchens to rent to culinary entrepreneurs and support spaces for clients including cold/freezer and dry storage and loading facilities, conveyer dishwasher and small ware supply. The facility’s kitchen facilities are available for rent 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
CCE clients will take part in Philly Food Innovation — a business acceleration program where TEC’s business development professionals provide technical assistance tailored for culinary entrepreneurs in both one-on-one and group settings.
The CCE also features the eKitchen Multimedia Learning Center — a fully-operational demonstration kitchen inside a digital, small smart classroom and television studio, allowing for in-person and distance programming.
The center is directed by Delilah Winder of Delilah’s Southern Cuisine Company.
The $6 million facility was supported by philanthropist Dorrance Hamiliton, Wells Fargo, FirstTrust Bank, city, state and federal funding.
“This is one of the greatest outpourings that we’ve seen in West Philadelphia for economic vitality, putting people to work and making more and more progress,” Mayor Michael Nutter said in reference to the combined investment in the facility.
Nutter said more projects like the new center should be replicated throughout the city.
“We need more of these in other parts of the city Philadelphia. Let us not stop at one,” he added.
During the grand opening, Matt Erskine, assistant secretary, U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration, addressed how the recession has caused communities to form strategic partnerships in an effort to spur economic recovery and job creation.
“We’re seeing the recovery and to accelerate that recovery we need examples of projects like this across the country where regional community partnerships, business, government on all levels, nonprofit foundations, individuals and strategic partners are coming together to make this happen,” says Erskine, whose agency made a $1.5 million investment in the CCE.
Erskine said the new center should serve as a model for what needs to be done for job creation.
The new center will also be the home of new retailers including Desi Village, a Pakistani restaurant and Café Injera, a coffee shop and sit-down eatery featuring Ethiopian flavors.