Monday, February 15, 2021

Food and Community


I can’t remember when I first started hearing people rave about R. House, the food hall in Baltimore created from a building that once housed the Anderson Automotive showroom. I do remember what they talked about: the delicious and out of the ordinary food, the variety of vendors, the flexibility of eating there, the convenience of having an in-house bar to pick up a drink to go with your meal. It was a whole new concept in the restaurant business for Baltimore.

That’s why I was so excited when work was kicked off right here in Howard County for the Common Kitchen, which is in many ways a hometown version of R. House. I particularly enjoy the Common Kitchen for its emphasis on being a part of the local community. Whether inviting high school groups to perform or hosting a local podcast, the folks at the Common Kitchen (and Clarksville Commons as a whole) have made their venue more than a place to pick up a bite to eat. I miss the days when my daily commute took me right by there and when one thought nothing of popping in casually to any local establishment. 

I look forward to a return of those days.

When I read Jeremy Dommu’s piece in The Merriweather Post about The Third - - a combination of café, retail outlet, coworking space, and business incubator - - it struck me that this new venture has at its roots a combination of the R. House food hall concept and the Common Kitchen community connections theme. Creator Laura Bacon starts on that framework and envisions so much more, describing a venue which functions not only by selling to the public but by fostering the work of entrepreneurial women of color. Take the time to read Dommu’s piece where he decribes this in more detail. You can visit their website, too.

I was interested to see a similar (though not identical) concept announced in the Baltimore Business Journal:

With 'Our Time' incubator, two Baltimore chefs look to support women of color starting culinary ventures, Amanda Yeager

Baltimore chefs Catina Smith and Kiah Gibian are working together to create: 

...Our Time, a new incubator in the Old Goucher neighborhood of Baltimore that will offer rentable commercial kitchen space, a food truck, take-out window and more for women of color who are hoping to start a culinary venture.

This last story is a tad more personal with me because I worked with Ms. Gibian in a school job a few years back when she was laying her plans for a future food truck business. Those plans eventually became Wilde Thyme.   It’s exciting to see her evolution from food truck entrepreneur to partner in helping new businesses get off the ground. I look forward to seeing how this progresses.

All of these ventures are focused around food. None of them would be possible if the restaurant business/food service industry models were completely determined by the same old “table service vs. drive through carry out” binary. All of them are enhanced by bringing people together and fostering community.

You can see why I’m more than a little invested in their success. 

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