As a former restaurant owner, Kelly James knows what it takes to operate a traditional restaurant. Her experience running the former Sugar Café, in Dormont, was rewarding — but also challenging and expensive.
Now the manager of the soon-to-open Market Kitchen at the Strip District's Pittsburgh Public Market, James says, if "there had been a public kitchen for me to use when I set out, I might not have opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant."
The Market Kitchen will be a commercial-grade kitchen within the public market that individuals can rent by the hour to make products for resale. Cooks can launch a business without overhead and building leases.
James says the kitchen should be operational in early September. But after costing about $600,000 so far — mostly from grants and other donations — the project still needs about $10,000 to finish.
So James turned to Kickstarter and has raised nearly $6,000 (as of press time), ahead of the July 31 deadline. "They say a lot of projects hit their goal with a big push in the last day," she says. "We're hoping that's the case."
Ideally, the commercial kitchen will generate a community, and that goal is reflected in Kickstarter rewards, which include brunches, cooking classes and a grand-opening party.
Several businesses have already signed on to use the kitchen, including several caterers, food trucks, bakers and a lunch-delivery business.
"By giving to this project," James explains, "you are investing in local entrepreneurs and you're becoming part of a great community."