To build revenue, Heath opening pair of commercial kitchens

  • The licensed kitchen that is available for rent at 18 Jacobs Road in Heath. Contributed Photo

  • The licensed kitchen that is available for rent at 18 Jacobs Road in Heath. Contributed Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 8/19/2022 4:25:19 PM
Modified: 8/19/2022 4:21:53 PM

HEATH — When the town decided to keep the former elementary school at 18 Jacobs Road as a public building, officials started to get creative with how to fund the upkeep.

One idea they passed around was renting out the building’s kitchen for commercial and community use. After years of planning, Heath is nearly ready to offer the kitchen for this purpose.

Building Use Committee Chair Pam Porter said the committee looked at Leyden’s rental kitchen, located in Town Hall, as a model. According to Randy Crochier, regional health agent with the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG), Leyden’s kitchen is mostly used by the Council on Aging but is available for other uses.

Additionally, Porter said when Heath officials brought a real estate agent to 18 Jacobs Road, he explained the kitchen could potentially produce revenue for the town.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Building Use Committee got to work updating the kitchen and getting the proper licenses. Like many projects over the past couple years, their work was slowed by the pandemic and the subsequent backorders of equipment taking place.

When the committee began updating the Jacobs Road location, members decided to offer the kitchen at Community Hall, located at 1 East Main St., for rent as well. The Jacobs Road location is now ready for inspection and town officials are waiting on one piece of equipment for Community Hall’s kitchen.

Porter also said there is a need for a commercial kitchen in the hilltowns, though the Franklin County Community Development Corporation (CDC) in Greenfield offers a more central resource. On the Worcester County border, a shared-use commercial kitchen and event space is planned for the former Pleasant Street School in Athol.

“The CDC kitchen is a wonderful resource, but it only works for larger farms,” she said. “Our goal is to offer what seems to be a needed facility to farmers in West County.”

“If you want to do 100 quarts, stay in Heath,” Crochier noted of production levels. “If you want to do 1,000, go to the CDC.”

At the Jacobs Road location, there is a steamer to help with canning and a proofing oven for baking. This equipment can assist in residents’ larger cooking projects.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Crochier said of Heath’s commercial kitchens. “It will be a lot easier than licensing your own kitchen.”

Porter said the Building Use Committee recently downsized, and lacks knowledge about permitting for such a kitchen. So, Porter made a deal with Alice Lee, a Heath resident and the owner of Delicatesse in Shelburne Falls, to manage the kitchen. Lee has permission to use the kitchens for her business in exchange for managing the kitchens for rentals.

“She was a natural choice, being a resident of Heath,” Porter said. “She makes incredible food in not much space, so I thought this barter would be helpful for her.”

Lee has no current plans for the kitchen, but this arrangement could be helpful in the future, Porter said.

There is a cooperative program in the works for the freezer at the Jacobs Road location. Porter explained paying for electricity would be costly for one person, but hopes three to five farmers will have interest in the freezer space to pay for the electricity together. Both kitchens also have reception halls attached that can be used to host events.

“People can have weddings at the church, and you can have your reception at the Community Hall,” Porter said.

The rate to rent the kitchens is $50 an hour, with discounted rates for community members who are not using the kitchen for business. Interested patrons can visit hilltownkitchens.com for more information.

Bella Levavi can be reached at 413-930-4579 or blevavi@recorder.com.


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