BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – 30 Island St. in Bellows Falls is a sort of forgotten building just up the hill from the train depot and across the street from the old Robertson’s Paper Mill that is currently under demolition. With a target date for opening to be set in April, Sustainable Valley Group is developing a shared kitchen at its business incubator facility in the 30 Island St. building.
SVG has owned the building for the last few years. It has a fascinating history of uses. The rear section was once one of the buildings of the Vermont Farm Machine Tool Company that dates back to the days of log drives, paper mills, and the Bellows Falls Canal. As times changed, the building was passed to various owners who used it for slaughtering chickens, manufacturing furniture, baking gourmet dog biscuits, and in the late ‘90s it housed a deli and a bar that featured pool tables and a dance floor with a disco ball.
Since SVG took it over, it has been an incubator for the Bellows Falls Bike Project, a textile recycling project, and two solar businesses. Now Gary Fox of SVG says they are renovating the building to provide a full commercial kitchen, big walk-in cooler, and a new brewing facility. The kitchen will have the required fire suppression system and three base sink, meeting all requirements. The plan is to offer rental of the facility to various small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs on a shared basis.
Fox says the idea came from a 2010 and ‘11 initiative by the Great Falls Food Hub to improve the local food situation. The USDA did a study that showed that most local farms are too small to sell to the big wholesalers. They are then left with local farmer’s markets and farm stands where limited demand prevents them from planting to their potential. Many make processed foods like jams to supplement, but to maximize they need a lot more space and equipment than their own farm kitchens can provide.
Similarly, small entrepreneurs such as caterers like Harvest Moon that is losing their Saxtons River kitchen, or farmer’s market food vendors have a need for the facility but not necessarily the investment capital nor need for a facility of their own. Fox says the closest such facilities are in Hardwick, Vt. and in Greenfield, Mass. The new incubator space will hopefully serve this area and 10 miles around.
Fox sees “a lot of opportunities for Vermont branded products.” There is also local interest in the booming microbrewery ventures. Two beer makers, Tad and Paul, who work as the Plymouth Union Brewery have already expressed interest.
SVG can be contacted at email@example.com.