Food Fort offers suite of services to operators in Central OhioEntrepreneurial Support — By Melanie McIntyre on March 13, 2012 at 8:00 am
When mobile food operations kick into high gear this spring, The Food Fort will be ready to help local entrepreneurs make the most it.
Located at the Economic and Community Development Institute’s campus on Old Leonard Avenue, the Food Fort has a unique approach to assisting food entrepreneurs, counseling them before they launch their business (if possible) to ensure they are a good fit for the market, as well as connecting them to resources they can use to get their business off the ground and sustain it.
“We also serve as a mobile, and non-mobile, matchmaker connecting business owners to others to buy from, sell to, collaborate with and collectively grow good food options in our city,” says Food Fort Coordinator Jim Ellison. “We are really excited about the collaborations our future incubator kitchen and bakery clients can offer to the community.”
The 8,000-square-foot Food Fort commissary will feature a kitchen and bakery component that will span about 1,400 square feet.
“The kitchen and bakery portion of the building will be available for rent in a few months,” he says. “The Food Fort owns and rents eight food carts and has available space for an additional eight carts. Food trucks are also part of the program with room for eight trucks.”
Food truck spaces are expected to be filled by the end of this month.
“For food trucks, we provide a place to park and plug in to electric, access to water, a three compartment sink in the commissary, additional electric access inside the commissary, dry storage space, as well as Food Fort technical assistance and placement assistance for corporate lunches, special events, festivals, etc.,” he says.
The Food Fort works with the community to identify businesses or community events that might benefit from the mobile food services its clients provide, with a mutually beneficial relationship for the community and food vendors being the top priority.
It also guides business owners through the permitting and licensing process, provides them with social media support, and has partnered with Celebrate Local store at Easton Town Center to help vendors find markets for their products.
Additionally, Food Fort members have access to ECDI’s business, marketing, and accounting courses offered through its Small Business Academy.
The Food Fort facility has a state-of-the-art alarm system that includes security cameras too ensure the clients’ safety, Ellison says. Members use access cards that allow them to enter the facility 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
For mobile food truck and cart vendors, a monthly Food Fort membership is $250.
Those interested in renting kitchen and bakery space should contact Bob Kramer at 614-559-0115 or by email at BKramer@ECDI.org. Interested mobile food entrepreneurs should contact Jim Ellison at 614-559-0153 or by email at JEllison@ECDI.org.
Melanie McIntyre served as editorial director of The Metropreneur from its launch in August 2010 to May 2013. She is also a featured writer for Columbus Underground and writes about fashion, style and pop culture on her blog, Thoroughly Modern Melly. Melanie is an Ohio State University graduate, lives in the Short North, and enjoys reading and running.
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