Fairborn city manager Rob Anderson knew he needed to reinvigorate the downtown business corridor for his city to thrive. One of his strategies was to buy four empty buildings on Main Street and hire Tonia Fish as the revitalization specialist. Tonia wasted no time in creating a plan that would make the city of Fairborn a catalyst to creating specialty food businesses.
Opened last fall the 1200 square foot Spark Gluten-Free “kitchen incubator” at 309 W. Main Street offered a shared kitchen space that allows specialty bakers, who previously have been cooking in their homes, to access a licensed commercial kitchen. This space is a game changer that allows these small, mostly home based businesses, to produce products in large quantities without making a large, sometimes infeasible, investment for a new facility. (Full disclosure – Tonia and I worked for several years to bring Synergy, a kitchen incubator to downtown Dayton).
The incubator is a unique asset to this region and is the only one of it’s kind located within an approximate 70 mile radius. The kitchen is now full, with six small business tenants and a waiting list of future users.
The first tenant was the Neighborhood Nest, run by dedicated gluten-free baker Amber Titpon. She created a following for her baked goods by selling at local farmer’s market and several local shops in the greater Dayton/Springfield area. Tiption was a savory chef in culinary school, but after being diagnosed with celiac disease she diverted her focus to creating baked goods that tasted good and had great texture. I was lucky enough to get to taste some of Amber’s baked goods and I have to tell you the nutella cinnamon roll (pictured) I tried was truly the best I’ve ever had.
Tipton shared with us that she often gets request from customers for foods they miss and the challenge of converting a recipe to be gluten free is what keeps her going. She recently succeeded with a key lime pie, and donuts and next up are rye and pumpernickel breads. You can get her gluten-free goodies at the 416 Diner, Lefty’s Eats & Espresso, order from her website or watch her facebook page for cash and carry days. But the most exciting part of talking with Amber was hearing about the growth of her business that has come from being at Spark for not quite a year. She’s been able to hire an assistant baker, and she’s now looking for a spot to open her very own bakery!
Also working out of Spark: Black Barn Creamery– creating vegan and dairy free ice cream; Ella Bella– a gluten-free flour and cookie mix company; Stoney Creek Garden Center, creators of signature tea blends; and Seafood Goddess, a family-owned seafood seasonings business.
Next up for Fairborn, a second incubator. Bilbrey Construction is helping to create this 6000 square foot space, which will consist of two kitchen lines, one that will cater to savory foods, the other being created with bakers in mind, but without the ingredient restrictions of the Spark space. This facility is being created for multiple renters, with a co-working area for members to network and collaborate with other professionals within the industry, and a versatile space for instructional and educational series for members and the public. Members will also have the opportunity to participate in business and financial planning resources, helping them to eventually graduate out of the Incubator into storefronts of their own. The education and instructional series will not only be offered to kitchen members, but the community and nearby university students as well. The opening of the 2nd space is planned for August.
Just today the city of Fairborn has announced a partnership with Rachel DesRochers to run both the Gluten-Free and Kitchen Incubators at Spark Fairborn. In every organization she works with, Rachel’s sole purpose is to spread gratitude and build community.
Rachel founded Grateful Grahams, an artisanal graham cracker company in 2010. Stemming from the success of Grateful Grahams, Rachel started the Incubator Kitchen Collective in 2013. The Incubator Kitchen Collective is a non-profit providing kitchen space, business support, and mentorship to food entrepreneurs in the Cincinnati, Oh. and Newport, Ky. areas. Rachel is also the founder of The Good People Festival, an annual free music festival; and Kitchen Convos, a podcast showcasing the personal stories of the regional food community.
Rachel has received numerous local awards and was a semi-finalist for Martha Stewart’s American Made Award and a finalist in Artworks Big Pitch. Rachel is a passionate believer in the power of gratitude and the role of food in the creation of community. Her mission goes beyond making a great cookie: she also wants to impact her community with positivity and action.
The City of Fairborn will manage the membership and programming aspect of the Coworking Space at Spark Fairborn. Rachel will manage the membership and programming of both the Gluten-Free and Kitchen Incubators at Spark Fairborn. Rachel brings with her a wealth of knowledge and resources gained from the successful guidance of sixty small businesses over the last five years through the Incubator Kitchen Collective.
Prospective Kitchen Members can contact Rachel DesRochers, Chief Gratitude Officer at The Gratitude Collective at [email protected].
Prospective Coworking Members and Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Facilitators can contact Tonia Fish, City of Fairborn Downtown Revitalization Strategist at [email protected].