When Blind Dog Cafe and Bakery owners Jonas Singer and Cullen Gilchrist realized that in order to grow their own business, they needed more space with an industrial kitchen, and to do so the duo founded Union Kitchen in D.C.’s NoMa neighborhood. The concept, which started in 2013, was not only a vehicle for Blind Dog Cafe and Bakery to expand, but also a way to help local food and beverage start-ups that didn’t have the means or space to now have the chance to produce more product. With the success of Union Kitchen, Singer and Gilchrist decided to open a second location, calling on restaurant general contractor Hospitality Construction Services to bring the project to life through Value Engineering a space that was functional and cost-effective
Well known for it’s value engineering process, Rob Mescolotto, founder and owner of Hospitality Construction Services, planned a low-cost concept that enhanced the look, feel and function of the space while staying within a reasonable budget. For the second Union Kitchen incubator, which is housed in a 16,000-square-foot warehouse in the emerging Ivy City area of Northeast D.C., Rob and his team created a communal kitchen area that was both durable and functional. In anticipation that the floors and walls would need to be hosed down on a daily basis, the construction team built a four-to-five-inch concrete curb underneath the walls, allowing for, regular cleanings which would not affect the concrete and epoxy flooring.
Additional functionality elements include clean ceiling tiles, roll-up doors for food trucks to load and unload, grease interceptors built below the floor, massive walk-in freezers and refrigerators and empty, rentable areas that have all the connectors built in for equipment, but are left open for customization. The company also worked with Streetsense, which led the lighting and design of the space, and Alto-Hartley, Inc., the kitchen equipment installer. Hospitality Construction Services kept the Union Kitchen project well under budget by paying close attention to the layout, avoiding fire wrap installation, modifying the PVC piping and installing equipment intelligently.
Within Union Kitchen, local startups are able to rent small plots for an initial six-month commitment. The membership offers access to a low-cost, full-service and regulated community kitchen facilities. In addition to industrial appliances, freezer space and trash pickup, Union Kitchen also supports its members with branding, marketing and distribution of products. This project will give small food businesses in the D.C. area the means to thrive and will be a welcomed addition to the redeveloping neighborhood of Ivy City.