A business hub that will provide resources to food entrepreneurs is coming to the Dayton Arcade.
6888 Kitchen Incubator is a two-phase, shared-kitchen concept offering training, leadership support and commercial kitchen space. The first phase focuses on business curriculum development. The second phase focuses on the design, build-out and full operation of a 24-hour commercial kitchen and storage space that will be located at the newly renovated and historic Arcade in downtown Dayton. It is expected to open within the next 18 months.
The two-story, 10,000-square-foot facility also will include retail space, a classroom kitchen and rental pods, among other features. It is being developed by Dayton-area entrepreneurs Charlynda Scales, founder and CEO of Mutt’s Sauce; Dabriah Rice, head chef and co-owner of Divine Catering & Events and co-owner of DCE Management; and Jamaica White, co-owner of Divine Catering and DCE.
The project’s first phase will feature a “Sharpen the Axe Program” created by Dayton-based OH Taste LLC. The program covers a wide range of topics related to running a successful food business, and will offer an accelerator cohort to approximately 50 founders per year focused on business and entrepreneur development.
Phase two will offer market-rate rental opportunities in the commercial kitchen, and includes a retail store where people will have access to fresh and nutritious food options created by tenants of the kitchen. It also will provide mentoring for tenants of the kitchen and facilitation of business support, such as sourcing ingredients, marketing and distribution, and access to capital services.
A $1 million grant from the Fifth Third Foundation will fund the second phase of the project, which is expected to be complete in the next 12 to 18 months. So far, the project has raised $1.7 million toward its $4 million goal.
“We are proud to support this endeavor as it enhances the Dayton community by providing a much-needed resource that will benefit small business owners and offer healthy food options to the community,” said Heidi Jark, senior vice president and managing director for the Fifth Third Foundation.
The name 6888 Kitchen — pronounced “six-triple-eight” — was derived from the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the first and only all-Black female women Army Corp unit to serve in Europe during World War II. The unit was credited with organizing and directing the delivery of a large backlog of mail to U.S. servicemen. WomensHistory.org estimates the unit handled approximately 65,000 pieces of mail per day.
The women also were hailed as champions for females in the United States who were serving in the military and who were confronting racism and sexism. The unit was active from 1945 to 1946 and consisted of 855 women under the command of Maj. Charity Adams, a Wilberforce University graduate who lived in Dayton the majority of her life, and Captains Mary Kearney and Bernice Henderson.
The three Black female business founders who are leading efforts for 6888 Kitchen derived inspiration from the Central Postal Directory Battalion and decided to honor these women by naming the Dayton-based business after it.
Scales, an Air Force veteran and current Air Force Reservist, will serve as director of the 6888 Kitchen Incubator project and supervise OH Taste’s STA Program. She said the incubator will help create a positive economic impact in the Dayton area.
“6888 Kitchen will be a hub that will draw various food entrepreneurs and provide them with vital resources to enhance their businesses, which will ultimately increase their ability to provide the best services to their clients,” Scales said. “This will also be a central place where people can purchase healthy food from local farmers.”
White will oversee day-to-day kitchen management at the incubator. She said the hub will provide an environment where entrepreneurs can test their ideas and products, while also achieving both short-term and long-term goals.
“We are providing a launching pad for business owners to acquire the skills that they need to be successful while creating an opportunity for them to connect with each other and share best practices,” White said. “We want this to be a beacon of light for our community.”
Rice said the effort is both a personal and professional endeavor.
“I know that being a food entrepreneur can be hard at times,” Rice said. “I’m planning to use my 15 years of experience in the food and hospitality industry to mentor the tenants who rent the space and who are seeking advice on how to make their businesses even better.”
The founders are seeking an additional $2.5 million from other sources as they prepare to open the space. Their vision is to scale successful food and beverage companies into new restaurants and consumer goods that will bolster the local economy and attract more people to the city of Dayton.
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