It is a perfect spring weekend in mid-May, the kind that inspires leisure activities like boating or biking on Long Island. Yet Courtney Thompson and her father Jim are working feverishly at a storefront location in Farmingdale. They’re focusing their energies on creating a new kind of iconic Long Island experience.
Courtney’s hair is pulled back and she is working on a cupboard that reaches from floor to ceiling. Jim is sponging freshly painted caramel colored walls with a lighter paint, creating warm dappled effect. The back room is filled with sinks, refrigerators and crates containing professional kitchen appliances. They have invested months of sweat equity, and there is still much work to be done, but shortly they expect to cut the ribbon on a uniquely Long Island enterprise.
“A Taste of Long Island,” located at 211-A Main Street in Farmingdale, will offer a retail market for established artisan foods crafted on Long Island, combined with a shared-use commercial kitchen for aspiring food entrepreneurs looking to produce and launch new local food brands. The venture is the first of its kind for Long Island, whose spirited food culture is often concealed by suburban sprawl.
“There’s so much food made on Long Island and people don’t even realize it’s made here,” says Courtney who approached her father – a successful small business entrepreneur – to partner with her on a new venture when the economy became challenging and jobs were scarce.
“I’ve always worked in his stores,” she explains. “I always knew people can own their own business. You don’t have to work for someone else.”
Originally they hoped to launch a food truck, but realized that the food would need to be prepared in a licensed kitchen, and no such facility was available for rent in Nassau or Suffolk counties.
“We realized there’s really a need,” Courtney says. They floated the idea on several message boards and found an enthusiastic response from potential kitchen clients. Since locating the store and beginning renovations, cooks, bakers and canners anxious to rent the commercial kitchen space have approached them.
The kitchen is equipped with state of the art professional appliances, including a 10-burner range, a double deck convection oven and 30-, 20- and six-quart mixers.
Courtney explains that many of her family members are teachers. She sees the chance to work with new food entrepreneurs as a teaching opportunity and a convergence of all her skills. She has an undergraduate degree in marketing and public relations, she’s worked as a new business consultant and has a teaching degree in family and consumer science.
Courtney and Jim plan to sell a range of established Long Island products in the storefront market, including goat cheese, honey, chutney, specialty pickles and locally roasted coffee. Jim calls the selection planned for the market, “an eclectic collection” of the best of Long Island food products.
“A Taste of Long Island” provides a valuable opportunity for entrepreneurs just starting a food business. Beyond access to the resources of a professional kitchen, the retail food market offers an additional advantage.
“By having the market, we have the ability to give our kitchen clients who are just starting out their first storefront,” explains Courtney. “By allowing them to sell in our store, they’re building their customer base.”
“A Taste of Long Island” will also offer training and recommends that all clients starting out prepare a business plan. The food market will be arranged boutique-style, and each business will have the opportunity to create a retail area within the store that educates the public about their specific product line.
Courtney and Jim thought the Main Street site was idea for it’s central location and hometown village feel. Future plans call for “A Taste of Long Island” farmers market on Saturday’s that will showcase home grown produce from local farmers.
So what does Long Island taste like?
“Fresh!” Jim answers without hesitation. With farmers and vendors located just miles away, Jim says the products they’ll carry are “as local as local gets.”
Contact Courtney and Jim Thompson at email@example.com
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