New incubator kitchen in Boston Square aims to provide culinary access to local, minority businesses
For years, neighbors have asked for increased opportunity to build or launch more black-, brown-, and women-owned businesses. Simultaneously residents voiced the need for more local food options that reflect the neighborhood.
Two local community-based organizations are partnering to renovate a shuttered auto repair building at the corner of Oakdale Street SE and Kalamazoo Avenue SE in the Boston Square district into an incubator kitchen that aims to bolster food business for the neighborhood.
SpringGR and Amplify GR are partnering to open Kzoo Station: A Community Kitchen + Eatery at 1445 Kalamazoo Street SE. The project was named together with residents and community stakeholders. It will be developed by Amplify GR, who will also lead resident engagement. SpringGR will run the incubator kitchen, offering neighbors access, resources and learning opportunities within a commercial kitchen. Plans are being created for a retail space that will allow customers to buy the hyper-local food cooked up in the kitchen.
“Spring GR is looking forward to identifying and cultivating primarily neighborhood-based food businesses that will operate out of Kzoo Station,” said Arlene Campbell, Director, SpringGR. “Kzoo Station will eventually offer takeout options for customers from the businesses working within the kitchen, so it will be fun to create a food hub at this busy intersection.”
Amplify GR's director of economic opportunities, Danielle Williams, said her team practiced significant community engagement prior to bringing the project to the drawing board. She added that neighbors have asked for years to see an increased opportunity to build or launch more black, brown and women-owned businesses, as well as more local food options that reflect the diverse neighborhood.
"The goal of this endeavor is to provide access to entrepreneurial opportunities and food options that reflect the community,” said Danielle Williams, director of economic opportunities, Amplify GR. “We are excited because Kzoo Station is a response to what neighbors have expressed they would like to see in their community. It also represents the first project in the collective community design known as Boston Square Together – one of many steps toward a growing neighborhood that prioritizes equitable outcomes.
In addition to the incubator kitchen's entrepreneurial resources, Amplify GR has received a grant from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to support produce and dry good acquisition from South East Market. The local grocer supports Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) farmers in Michigan, with a mission of making healthy food more accessible to Grand Rapids' southeast side.
Renovations on the 1,416 square foot space started in October, with Kzoo station expected to be completed and open next summer. The architect behind the design is Isaac V. Norris & Associates, a longtime black-owned Boston Square business.