There’s nothing behind the times about Square Kitchen SLC. In fact, this new Salt Lake City venture blends forward-looking urban planning elements that are far-reaching and progressive.
Square Kitchen is what’s known in modern urban parlance as a culinary incubator. Incubators are organizations that help new or existing businesses speed early-stage growth by providing resources that might otherwise hinder a startup’s launch. So a culinary incubator offers, for example, space, equipment and storage needs for anyone who has a food business idea that they want to try out without having to assume the usual entry costs. And though “startup” may evoke the perception of an impromptu commercial dream, Square Kitchen is a pursuit of calculated professional imagination.
In 2013, Salt Lake City teamed with Carbaugh & Associates to publish a 36-page Culinary Incubator Kitchen Feasibility Study which details area food trends, market conditions, economic opportunity and best practices. The study concluded that “conditions in Salt Lake City are favorable for a culinary incubator.”
Having been awarded a competitive grant from the city, Ana Valdemoros and Tham Soekotjo established Square Kitchen LLC in 2015. Both business partners have not only years of experience in urban planning and development, but also a deep personal commitment to building a more sustainable community. “The whole purpose of this,” Ana emphasizes, “is for businesses to become successful.”
So, ideas and studies and good intentions, but what actually will it be? In general what the kitchen will provide is an affordable, licensed, inspected commercial kitchen facility that will be available to rent for variable amounts of time. This gives the tenant a reprieve from regulatory fees and contracting out commercial space. Square Kitchen will also offer in-house resources related to starting a new business.
Phase I construction is underway at the west-side 800 S location purchased for the kitchen, but a tour of the building’s expansive interior gives meaning to the scope of the project. The currently gutted industrial brick interior is primed for creative use. “This space,” Ana gestures to thousands of square feet, “could be for community education and events, pop-up dinners, dances; and this room will be for photographing food. We’ll have some areas for exclusive food prep needs, and here will be the main food preparation area.” Stepping down into a well-lit expanse, Ana points to where there will be refrigerators, ovens and other appliances to service the tenants.
Tenants also will be able to benefit from one-on-one time with a business attorney or an in-house graphic designer. Ana and Tham want to offer social media marketing classes, or help tenants understand different permitting processes. “Based on our own experience as small business owners,” Ana says, “we want to make life easier for food makers.”
Ana share that they already have 30 people signed up to use the kitchen. Preapplications can be found at: http://www.squarekitchenslc.com/