Fuel Kitchens commercial kitchen space set to launch in Pueblo this fall
Pueblo’s first full-scale commissary kitchen is slated to open this fall and its owners envision the business could be the center of the culinary arts ecosystem in Pueblo where food entrepreneurs can take their edible products to the next level.
Businesses like Pushin D’onuts, Tortillas to Table, and the Red Camper gourmet jam maker have already signed up to share use of the Fuel Kitchens concept, which is on target to open near the end of September.
“This will be everything you ever wanted in a commercial kitchen,” said Jolene “JoJo” Collins, who will serve as the kitchen’s director of operations and mentorship. “There will be a 3,000-square-foot kitchen with a sauté kitchen, a baking kitchen, some pretty amazing equipment and a dish prep area.”
The sprawling 25,000-square-foot building features a 2,000-square-foot walk-in refrigerator, a 6,000-square-foot freezer, a 4,500-square-foot dry storage area, as well as a packaging and shipping area that can, “help if you sell online or drop ship to wholesalers,” Collins said.
The former Budweiser building is located at 1745 N. Erie Ave. and will be “a one-stop shop for food trucks, caterers, community makers and bakers,” Collins said.
With a four-port loading dock, the kitchen will have the ability to receive or ship out any size load. Collins is thrilled about things like the kitchen’s double door access which is wide enough to accommodate the movement of loaded pallets.
“The efficiency to get things moving is a game changer,” Collins said. “Warehouse Manager Vicki Voss knows how to run a tight ship and help get things from point A to point B.”
Local small business owner Christapher Garcia of Kennadi’s Kookies, said he believes Fuel Kitchens “is going to be a fantastic opportunity for any small business in the food related industry that is right on that page and ready to take the next step and wants to do it in a safe and supportive environment.”
For example, food truck owners will have 24-hour access to the kitchen where they can prep and store food, clean dishes, dump grey water and trash, get fresh water and plug in to park overnight to keep the refrigerator running instead of unloading everything.
Collins, who uses Pueblo chiles to make her Jojo’s Sriracha products, has been working out of the Excelsior former school building in Boone where the multi-farm coop has a commercial kitchen with cold storage. Since she will be working at the Fuel Kitchens, she will be bottling her sriracha there too.
“This facility is bigger, and it will have things like a Type 1 oven hood with fire suppression for makers of meat and grease-based products. It is a very expensive piece of equipment,” Collins explained.
Depending on how the makers use the space, she estimates the commercial kitchen should be able to accommodate 45 to 60 businesses. The commercial kitchen will operate on a membership basis so those who sign up have 24-hour access and can book time and equipment via an app on their phones.
“That’s less stress because you don’t have to run around too fast like when you book by the hour. This is your kitchen, your home,” she explained.
A large underground grease trap and new sanitary sewer lines have already been installed and new electrical systems are being added this week. Plus there is room to grow in the building if it’s needed, Collins said.
Cooking up collaborations and support
Perhaps the best part of the facility is makers can network and share resources and knowledge. As a mentor, Collins can help makers figure out everything from applying for a sales tax license to packaging and sales.
”It can be isolating to have your own business and this will help keep morale up,” she said. “For food companies to be able to order in bulk and store items here, it will be a cost savings.”
“Taking that leap to grow your business on your own is very scary,” Garcia said. “The up front costs are huge and the initial investment is astronomic, so with everything they are doing and putting in to place to help support small business and build an environment where people can collaborate and share ideas, I think it is huge,” Garcia said.
“It is going to take food-related entrepreneurship in Pueblo to a place it’s never been before,” he said.
Collins, who is involved with the Pueblo Food Project, said between that organization, as well as the Fuel & Iron’s chef apprenticeship program and the nonprofit Fuel Farm organization “there are a lot of resources out there that we can tap into and help you figure out what can help you grow your business,” she said.
How the commercial kitchen got started
Fuel Kitchens is the vision of Nathan Stern and Zach Cytryn, the same commercial real estate developers who transformed the long-vacant 1915 Holmes Hardware building at 400 S. Union Ave. into a five-restaurant food hall complete with a bar, plus a coffee and ice cream shop.
“They are doubling down on Pueblo,” Collins said. “They see the potential to grow the food economy in Pueblo and create an ecosystem for agriculture, food and culinary arts.”
“They really believe this is where the heart and soul of that economy is and they love Pueblo,” she said.
Fuel Kitchens is offering the first three months of membership at half price as a promotional incentive. To find out more about the Fuel Kitchens, go to fuelkitchens.com or call Collins at 303-909-2808 to schedule a tour.
More Fuel & Iron news:Fuel & Iron opens: Here’s what to know about the long-awaited Pueblo food hall
Chieftain reporter Tracy Harmon covers business news. She can be reached by email at email@example.com or via Twitter at twitter.com/tracywumps. Support local news, subscribe to The Pueblo Chieftain at subscribe.chieftain.com.