Take a walk down the sloping streets of the Flats West Bank and you'll notice the old brick storefront, formerly home to Spaces, is getting a new lease on life. Purchased by Rafid Fadul in 2013, the building is being readied to become Prep Kitchen Cle (1305 Washington Ave., 330-774-8933, prepkitchencle.com), a shared kitchen and culinary incubator.
Plans of grandeur exist for the modest Superior Viaduct location. Two retail spaces, a 2,100-square-foot industrial kitchen, and 11 luxury apartments are in store for the four-story building, expected to be complete in spring of 2017.
Since moving to the neighborhood, Fadul's specialty has become multitasking; he also owns Tenk West Bank, a nearby multi-use facility on Center Street housing co-working space, Six Shooter Coffee, and Knockout Fitness. "I would say this is a passion project for him," says Sarah Halko, one of a small handful of Prep team members committed to Fadul's plans.
"I absolutely love this neighborhood," she gushes in the middle of Prep, which at the moment is a dusty construction zone. "Personally and professionally, this area has done a lot for me, and I think we all feel the same, that it's time for us to do something for the community."
Focused on product start-ups, mobile food businesses, and industry incubation, Prep Kitchen Cle's goal is to guide entrepreneurs through the process of conception, branding and marketing until they feel confident selling or expanding for themselves. "We have so many companies in the area who have already reached out to us to team up and work with people," says Halko.
With a new vanguard of roving, food-based festivals popping up each summer, the need for eateries to be as transient as their marketplace is clear. On top of the cost of renting commercial kitchen space comes equipment and all the paperwork that gets piled on. It is often too much for one startup to handle before any capitol has been made.
"There's a real shortage for commercial space for people just starting their businesses," confirms kitchen manager Emily Thomas. "There are a lot of people working out of churches or their mom's kitchen and they just need a place to kick-start their business. It's really going to set them up to succeed on multiple levels."
Roberto Rodriguez of Orale Contemporary Mexican Kitchen became a part of the Prep Kitchen Cle project early on after closing his kitchen and eatery in Ohio City in September. He didn't need the dining room, but he still needed a kitchen to prepare foods for Orale's West Side Market stand. Inspired by their location and mission, Rodriguez will play an active role at Prep.
One way Prep Kitchen Cle hopes to differentiate itself from similar concepts, such as Cleveland Culinary Launch & Kitchen, is by making a commitment to connect entrepreneurs with investors through heightened visibility of their products in their retail space, special tasting and networking events, and a chef's table that can be rented out by corporate entities and private parties alike to showcase what's being worked on in a casual, classy setting.
The West Bank remains economically disparate, but the mission to serve the entire community, from residents at nearby Stonebridge to those in low income housing, is encapsulated by a non-profit division that will focus on job training for under-served populations and refugees along with free use of their kitchen and classes.
"Collectively, the main goal here is to see people succeed," Halko says just before her phone begins to ring with another investor on the line.