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WEDI discusses plans for new kitchen in Broadway Market

The City of Buffalo announced Thursday that Westminster Economic Development Initiative (WEDI) had been selected to operate the Kitchen @ the Market, a $464,000 project by the City and the Broadway Market that intends to spur new small businesses in Buffalo's food production industry.

WEDI presently oversees the West Side Bazaar, the eight-year-old incubator at 25 Grant St. where immigrants and refugees have opened small food and retails stands to find their entrepreneurial footing.

But WEDI executive director Ben Bissell emphasized the Broadway Market project will differ considerably: Unlike at the bazaar, the new tenants at the Kitchen @ the Market will not serve prepared food directly to marketgoers.

The 800-square-foot kitchen, set to open in March at 999 Broadway, will serve as a commissary (a shared kitchen space) for entrepreneurs, selected by WEDI through an application process, to create a food product with the goal of selling wholesale. A stainless steel, commercial-grade stove, refrigerator and freezer, plus a freezer and sizable prep and storage areas are the equipment and resources at the businesses' disposal.

Three businesses may operate out of the Kitchen at once, but only one can cook at a time.

A good example of the type of business intended for the kitchen is fenugreek saucemaker and Somalian refugee Bisharo Ali, profiled by The News' Andrew Galarneau last month, who previously worked with WEDI before starting Najah in a small space in the Broadway Market.

Ali's sauces are available at six retailers across the city – including the Broadway Market – as well as at the Clinton-Bailey Farmers Market. She is in the process of renovating her own space in the Polonia District.

When the plan for the Kitchen @ the Market was first proposed more than a year ago, WEDI attracted 16 prospective business owners with a defined interest in using the commissary. The Grant Street-based organization also has a list of more than 100 people interested in opening a general food-service business or restaurant.

All of those 100 or more prospective restaurateurs won't be accommodated when the West Side Bazaar moves into a still undetermined larger space, so Bissell noted WEDI could encourage some of the others into more specialized food production.

Not all of the clients WEDI works with are refugees, Bissell stressed, as only 36 percent of the organization's clients in 2018 fell into that category. The new Broadway Market project will be a "way of demonstrating that WEDI is open to other populations," he added.

"The West Side Bazaar was built by the community around it," Bissell said, "and I expect it will be the same for the Kitchen @ the Market."

*Related content:
- Photos: a World of Flavor at the West Side Bazaar
- Andrew Galarneau: The Bazaar for Beginners
- Smiles on Good Friday in the Broadway Market
- The Kitchen in prospective Broadway Market upgrades
- Find hearty portions at Margie's Soul Food in Broadway Market


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