When last we checked in with Citizen Incubator Kitchens, the food co-working space had about 140 members. Today it’s 250. That’s a whole lot of entrepreneurs adding to Nashville’s food scene. 

The clientele is made up of food trucks, caterers, small food manufacturers, chefs who sell prepared meals and more. Many are small businesses launched by individuals who have great ideas — but who may lack the experience or financial means to get into the market. Other members are experienced folks who just need a home base for producing their cuisine. 

Citizen Incubator Kitchens started with a small commissary kitchen in West Nashville. Two years ago Laura Wilson, managing partner along with her husband Grant, added an 8,000-square-foot facility in the ground level of Hunters Station, the popular collection of dining spots near Five Points in East Nashville. In fact, the front door of Hunters Station opens into Citizen Market, which sells grab-and-go snacks and drinks produced by Citizen Kitchens clients. It also hosts a farmers market on Saturdays.

Laura Wilson says she continues to be amazed by the creativity of businesses that spring from the Citizen Kitchens, like The Pepper Pott, which sells Caribbean cuisine via Guyanese family recipes. Wilson says she was impressed by how skillfully clients pivoted during the pandemic. A couple in the music business created a cinnamon roll business called Rock n Rollz Nashville. “And they were killing it,” Wilson says. When the pandemic eased, they went back to their industry jobs.

Wilson says she approves of anything that allows entrepreneurs to experiment without losing their house. “You can think about the big idea and throw yourself into it, and it’s not going to destroy you,” she says. “It makes taking a risk not as terrifying.”

She also notes one inspiring thing — the number of members who have outgrown Citizen Kitchens and have their own facilities. “We want people to grow and leave the kitchen out of success,” she says.

—Dana Kopp Franklin

Senior Editor, Nashville Scene

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