Gottingen Street co-op opens shared kitchen

The Plan B Merchants Co-op hopes a new commercial kitchen will help small cooking businesses and bring in some much needed money.

Co-op almost shut down last year because it was so short of cash

The Plan B Merchants Co-op started a café and is opening up its kitchen for other small businesses to use. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

A merchants co-operative on Gottingen Street is opening up a shared space for people who need to use a commercial kitchen for their small cooking business.

Plan B Merchants Co-op said it almost went under last winter, and renting out the kitchen is a way to raise more money. 

"Plan B has a sort of a twist on everything we do here. We're sort of a unique operation in that we're a co-operative retail group," said Bob Chiasson, Plan B's president.

"Our kitchen is really going to be no different. We're going to run the kitchen as a co-operative too." 

Amy Wilson, who owns the small bakery and chocolate business My Sweet Geek, is the first cook to move in. She has a day job and can't afford a storefront on her own. 

"I have thought about it, but yeah, the financial risk is pretty high. Considering that not only do I need to have shelf space and a location that's suitable, I also need to invest the money for a commercial kitchen licence," Wilson said. 

Until now, she's done small orders from her home.  

"But if you want to sell at a café or to another business, you need to have a commercial kitchen. So it's a really good opportunity for me, because I can sell to essentially an entirely new market," she said. 

Co-op needs cash 

Bob Chiasson hopes commercial kitchen rentals will help solve the co-op's financial problems. (CBC)

Chiasson says he's also received interest from a burrito-making group that wants to rent the kitchen.

Chiasson has trained to work in commercial kitchens, and recently got his food handling certification to ensure he can oversee the safety of food preparation. 

Besides the kitchen, Plan B also runs a small retail store that sells everything from books to furniture. The co-op almost shut down last winter after the store's business dropped off in February. 

Plan B turned to crowdfunding to pay the rent. To make sure that doesn't happen again, the co-op has also created a café to bring in extra money. 

"Opening a café at Plan B will give the co-operative a chance to have its own sort of war chest against eventualities like last winter, that really blindsided us," said Chiasson. 

The Plan C café opened for the first time Saturday at the front of the five-year-old store. 

"Running a café will give us funds that we can then use for things like emergencies, or even things as amazing as say, advertising, or changing the odd light bulb," he said.  

With the café up and running, Chiasson said the co-op is much more prepared to meet this winter than last winter. 

About the Author

Shaina Luck

Reporter

Shaina Luck covers everything from court to city council. Her favourite stories are about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Email: shaina.luck@cbc.ca

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