DANVILLE – Two Danville women have been planning how to bring new food-based businesses to Danville.
Carol Nichols and Jean Beck have started The Cooks' Workshop, which will offer commercial kitchen and restaurant space rental.
"It is a place where entrepreneurs can start or expand their own businesses," Beck said. "Quite a number of people have some type of food-based skill they do well and wonder if they could turn it into a business. Now they will have a place to try."
When Mary Lewis said she wanted to sell or lease the site of her former California Catering & Restaurant, 38 N. Vermilion St., "It was exactly what we needed," Beck said. "Mary was willing to not only lease us the space but not sell all the kitchen and dining room equipment. That was key."
Possibilities include renting to cook food for a walk-in audience or for reservations only, catering at the site or to another site or even use of a commercial kitchen to can large quantities of food or cook a family reunion meal. The business offers the commercial kitchen and the availability of someone with a food handler's certification.
But for those interested in a business, without having to start out by investing in equipment or buying or leasing an entire building, the Cooks' Workshop offers an alternative.
"I find the idea of the start up of a business intriguing," Beck said. "We are able to let someone with a good idea for a food business try it out without all the usual major expenses."
Nichols and her husband owned a small restaurant a number of years ago and Beck worked for a caterer when she lived in California many years ago.
"The owner would use a restaurant on its closed days to serve a brunch," Beck explained. "It gave that business income on an off day and gave our business the chance for more people to experience what we had available. It was a win-win situation."
Nichols remembers trying to make a go of their restaurant and find their niche.
"If we'd known at the beginning what we found out through experience, we would have been more successful," Nichols said. "Having a place where people can start out with an idea could go a long way in helping them be ready to grow into their own space eventually."
A local barbecue business is already using the kitchen as a place to do prep work.
The Cooks' Workshop will offer cooking classes and rent the facility for private parties with or without kitchen use.
Those who have expressed interest have goals of a coffee shop, being a personal chef, caterer and baker.
"You would be surprised how many people know others with professional experience," Beck said. "We hope to entice them to create a meal out of our kitchen for people who want to experience their cuisine."
The kitchen will rent for $15 per hour or if the cook wants to use the seating area to serve and sell meals, the price is $25 per hour.
"If it gives a person pause at $25 per hour, that's a good thing to know, because it will cost a lot more per hour when you are in business on your own," Nichols said.
Beck feels that this kind of opportunity will push people to take a step they may not feel totally ready for.
"They may not have everything in place, and with us, they don't have to," she said. "They don't have to take all the risk at once."
For more information, call Nichols at 474-2028 or Beck at 918-1589.