Kitchens that once turned out hot lunches for ARC Industries employees are now an opportunity for small businesses to access commercial kitchens while offering meaningful employment for adults with developmental disabilities.
When the demand for lunches dipped and the kitchens stopped serving meals in February 2012, ARC Industries looked at their resources and what might help the community and developed Sunapple Kitchens.
“We really felt like there was a need to offer this resource to the community,” says ARC Industries CEO Teresa Kobelt.
The four kitchens, each with different licenses and specialties, are found at ARC locations across the city.
- • Sunapple Kitchens North: commercial cannery handling high-acid foods like barbecue sauces and salsas
- • Sunapple Kitchens West: certified gluten-free baking facility with a frozen food license
- • Sunapple Kitchens East & South: focus on a broader base as more general-use kitchens with bakery, frozen foods, catering and meat HACCP certifications
Sunapple Kitchens are not a rental kitchen. Vendors work with ARC employees to train the person who will be making their product. Entrepreneurs end up with not only a space to produce their goods, but also a workforce.
“You’re actually paying for an employee instead of a space,” says Kobelt.
The benefits of this set-up are two-fold, offering a chance for small businesses to up production when it otherwise may not have been possible, while also teaching an employee a valuable set of skills.
“You start in your home or some small space and just don’t’ have the capital to grow your business beyond your small space,” Kobelt says. “It’s a much smaller investment to pay a wage than spend the capital,”
Sunapple Kitchens fees are dependent upon many factors, like how many employees it takes to make the product, what the product is and how long it takes to produce, and if any special instructions or equipment are needed. Kitchen availability is also influenced by these variables. With the set-up, goods for multiple vendors can be produced in the kitchen at the same time, but just how many varies.
In addition to production, businesses can contract ARC Industries to package and ship their products. Shipping services make daily stops at the facilities for the other services that ARC provides, meaning the commercial food goods can be sent nationwide as well.
Creating jobs in commercial kitchens has also been meaningful for the employees at ARC.
“ARC industries is an employment training entity, so folks come to the facilities and learn job skills,” says Sandy Frey, Co-Owner and Principal Partner of Integrity Sustainable Planning and Design. “The idea is to be able to take those job skills and training and go out and be employed.”
Typically the kind of work done at ARC locations has been sub-contract, production style work, which Kobelt describes as not a good fit for everybody.
“[Sunapple] has created a lot of other opportunities for people that aren’t interested in production type work,” she says.
“We’re all intrigued about the possibility of this being a replicable model for other communities,” Susan Weber, also Co-Owner and Principal Partner of Integrity Sustainable Planning and Design, continues. Many communities lack for commercial kitchen space, as well as opportunities for meaningful work for adults with developmental disabilities.
For more information, visit sunappleco.com.