Home at the Grange: Kitchen is an incubator for food businesses
DARTMOUTH - “These are ready to go to the market,” said Joan Marcy as she flipped tall jars of deep red, cranberry margarita mix on their lids to seal the fresh contents. Next, Marcy attached the Cape Cod Cranberry Drizzle label — a proud moment for the entrepreneurial cook.
Marcy’s fledgling business may never have come to fruition if she didn’t find a state-of-the-art, certified kitchen to produce her Dennis-based cranberry products. The same goes for Barbara Simon-Olsen, maker of Besto Pesto products of Cranston, R.I., and several other food producers who are now using a shared kitchen at the Dartmouth Grange.
It’s an idea that allows new companies to get their products out of the home kitchen and into the market. It also promotes the Grange’s mission of assisting agricultural ventures while helping the fraternal organization raise needed funds. There is one other shared kitchen in the state, located in Greenfield.
“Primarily, we’re here to help farmers add value to their products,” said Becky Turner, Grange kitchen manager.
So far, there are five small businesses using the kitchen, which is rented by the hour, to cook up their products. Besides Cape Cod Cranberry Drizzle and Besto Pesto, other cooks are the Black Cat Cookie Co., makers of gourmet cookies; Quansett Gardens, producers of yeast breads, quick breads and muffins, and growers of veggies, eggs and flowers; and TJ Concessions, a hot dog cart vendor. Additional companies are being sought.
Turner said most of her customers have the same story. They’ve been making their product for years in their own kitchen and giving it away to friends and family. More often than not, they’ve been told they should sell their product.
“I’ve been making it at home for years,” Marcy said. “I’ve always done canning. I’ve always had a garden. I started with the basic cranberry sauce.”
A nurse for the past 30 years, Marcy created Cranberry Drizzle, which comes in original, apple-cranberry and pineapple-cranberry. It can be used on desserts and meals. “People started really liking it,” Marcy said.
She’s also created a margarita mix and a vinaigrette, and is working on her newest concoction, “chelish,” a tangy, cranberry spread that falls somewhere between chutney and relish.
Starting her cranberry products company “has been in process for a long time,” Marcy said.
When she decided she’d like to market her products, she soon learned she’d need a bigger kitchen, and one that’s licensed to produce food for sale.
After a little research, she found that the Dartmouth Grange just opened a shared kitchen.
“I had no clue how to market it,” Marcy said. “It was perfect timing.”
Marcy spends about one day a week at the kitchen, boiling up cranberries and other natural ingredients in a giant stockpot and then pouring the mixture into bottles for sale. She’s got about 700 pounds of cranberries from a local bog stashed in her home freezer for eventual Cape Cod Cranberry Drizzle needs.
The Grange kitchen is set up to accommodate nearly any cook.
“People are enjoying the vibe, and the kitchen is user-friendly,” Turner said.
The kitchen was “overhauled” to accommodate the various cooks. Turner said the kitchen needed to be redone anyway after a tree limb fell on the Grange roof and severely damaged the building at 1133 Fisher Road. Instead of patching it up, a member, Julie Manley, suggested the shared kitchen concept. And, with grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, the Dartmouth Agricultural Preservation Trust and various fundraisers, a commercial kitchen was built with help from the students of the Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School.
The kitchen has an industrial Cuisinart stand mixer, two convection ovens, a six-burner cooking range, a tilting skillet, a steam-jacketed kettle, an automated filler, two refrigerators, two freezers, a baker’s rack, various stainless steel tables, storage space and lots of small kitchen wares.
Besides renting out the space (the cost is $15 to $28 per hour depending on energy needs), Turner said she also offers assistance to new customers going through the licensing process. She said the kitchen is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is not only for business concerns. Folks catering a party or turning their summer tomato crop into pasta sauce are also invited to use the kitchen.
“We make lemon basil pesto,” said Simon-Olsen of Besto Pesto, a retired school teacher. Her partner, Michele Kozloski, manages a farm and grows their organic basil and garlic.
“My pesto is a recipe I’ve been making at home for a couple of decades for friends and family,” Simon-Olsen said. “We partnered up last year and are working our way up the learning curve of business. We needed a kitchen that met health standards and storage space. The Grange kitchen did all that.”
Besto Pesto is sold in various Rhode island markets, including Whole Foods in Providence and on Simon-Olsen’s Web site, www.bestopestori.com. Cape Cod Cranberry Drizzle is being sold mainly on Cape Cod but may come to nearby locations in the future.
For information about using the Dartmouth Grange shared kitchen, contact Turner at 508-636-1900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
E-mail Deborah Allard of The Herald News (Fall River, Mass.) at email@example.com.