Shared-kitchen network Thumb Coast Kitchens gives local entrepreneurs a chance to grow – The Times Herald

What began as a dream to share her unique cooking with the community has quickly turned into a reality of growing her food service business. 
Entrepreneur Daysha Woodley was recently approved by the St. Clair County Health Department to operate her business Daylicious Drinks and Treats out of the Atrium location of the Thumb Coast Kitchens network. 
Thumb Coast Kitchens offers food-based entrepreneurs shared license and commercial kitchen space in St. Clair County to operate their business. The kitchens provide the space and tools needed for entrepreneurs to grow their business. 
“I feel blessed to be a part of this whole product,” said Woodley. 
“I feel like it is great for our area. There’s a lot of entrepreneurs who are here and who enjoy cooking, and now have the opportunity to actually put forth a plan to be able to provide their items and their products to the public.”
Woodley, who is now the manager and coordinator of Thumb Coast Kitchens, said that since its inception, the shared-kitchen network has been a success so far. 
Entrepreneurs and local businesses looking to have access to the kitchen can rent the space for $25 per hour. People must be approved to join the network to use the space and must have a registered business, ServSafe Food Handler Certification, the appropriate liability insurance, and the appropriate licenses for selling food. 
The shared-kitchen network opened its first location in St. Clair County back in November of last year at the Grace Episcopal Church, located at 1213 Sixth St.
According to Woodley, the Grace kitchen operates as more of a commissary kitchen where entrepreneurs already have a license to work. The kitchen has since provided plenty of prep space, ovens, dishwashers and dry storage for the local entrepreneurs who have used it.  
Seed & Soul, a nonprofit collective focusing on sustainable agriculture and mutual growth, is one of the first organizations to take advantage of the opportunity to grow their business. 
“Our goal is to be self-sufficient and being able to donate food, whether it be made, donated, or to give ideas for ingredients for cheap ways to gather some groceries,” said Sarabeth Harju, Seed & Soul’s secretary. 
“With Thumb Coast Kitchen, we are working with them to be able to do these hot-food pop-ups where we make several different soups. Usually we try to do three different soups.” 
“We always try to include one vegan or vegetarian style soups for anyone that has those types of dietary concerns,” she added. 
Harju came to know about Thumb Coast Kitchens when she was moving back to Port Huron and learned that the organization had just been funded through the Community Foundation of St. Clair County and the James C. Acheson Foundation.
She said that she was excited to learn that Seed & Soul was eligible to use the kitchen at Grace Episcopal Church through the program, recalling how rarely the space was used when she was a kid attending the church, knowing the kitchen was always available. 
“I asked anybody that I could ask at the church to be able to get on so I could start utilizing what a good kitchen it was,” she said. 
Seed & Soul was able to use the Grace kitchen back in early February for the first time to which Harju described the occasion as “awesome.” 
“It was super spacious, we were easily able to clean up after ourselves, we were easily able to get everything that we needed to get done and organized,” she said. 
“We’re actually going to be using it once a month. We’ll be there again, on the 10th of March. I think that’s a very cool thing that they (Thumb Coast Kitchens) do with having the accessibility to either kitchen in the area.” 
As of mid-January, Thumb Coast Kitchens was able to open its second kitchen location at the former Atrium Café & Ice Cream Parlour on Military Street. 
Complete with stovetops, ovens, griddles, fryers, warming tables, commercial size mixers, and storage space, the Atrium kitchen is available to rent 24/7. 
Woodley described the new Atrium kitchen operating as an “incubator kitchen,” which allows for local businesses to be licensed directly from the Atrium. 
At the moment, Woodley currently has about five chefs who are in the works of getting their licensing done through the location, and as of a couple weeks ago, Woodley herself became licensed to operate Daylicious Drinks and Treats through the kitchen.    
“I typically work from home,” said Woodley.
“That’s how I’m able to do a lot of my sweets and treats and things like that. But to be actually able to work outside of that was beautiful. I have been utilizing the kitchen space. I love it.”
Last week, Woodley held Taco Tuesday and Fish Fry Friday, where she was able to serve and provide for the community through the kitchen. She said that Fish Fry Friday was the bigger and more successful event last week. 
Although she hopes to continue doing both Taco Tuesday and Fish Fry Friday, Woodley explained that once she has other chefs licensed to work at the kitchen, and other businesses using the kitchen, her availability will be different. 
But for now, her sister Donneita Woodley, who’s visiting from Florida, has been helping her in the kitchen, prepping to put on the two weekly events and planning for the future of the kitchen. 
“We are doing some minor updates and we are hopeful that in the early spring time, we should be able to start renting the dining side of it for events,” Woodley said.
“You will be able to rent it for birthday parties, or board meetings, and things of that nature.”
Woodley said that at the moment, she has a lot of interests from local entrepreneurs that want to either get licensed through the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Development, or are looking at ways to get their businesses started by using the kitchen space. 
She also hopes that the more kitchen spaces join the Thumb Coast Kitchens project to make it a network of shared kitchens in the wider St. Clair County area.  
“Having this opportunity available in our area opens up a lot of doors for people.”
Taco Tuesdays and Fish Fry Friday both run from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Atrium Kitchen at 1519 Military St.
Call (810)-989-6002 to order ahead. There is only carryout, no dining in. 
For more information on Thumb Coast Kitchens, visit their Facebook page here. 
Contact Sergio Montanez at Spoveda@gannett.com. 

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