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Food incubator Union Kitchen to open second location in Northeast D.C.

Tuesday - 2/11/2014, 9:58pm  ET

Union Kitchen, the commercial kitchen that opened in the District in 2012 to offer culinary entrepreneurs a place to test out new food business concepts, has locked in a new location.

The organization's second communal commercial kitchen will be located at 1369 New York Ave. NE in the Ivy City neighborhood, and its founders aim to offer members even more services at the 17,000-square-foot site. They hope to open it by the end of 2014.

Among the features will be a coffee shop on premises and permanent retail market where Union Kitchen businesses can sell their products, increased space for storage and more distribution services, according to co-founder Jonas Singer, who also owns Blind Dog Cafe, a coffee pop-up that operates out of Darnell's Bar in the U Street neighborhood.

Union Kitchen is working to raise about $1.5 million to build out the space, Singer said in a phone interview from Ireland, where he's spent the past week traveling around explaining the benefits of the Union Kitchen concept through a U.S. State Department program.

He expects the funding will come in part from profits from his and co-founder Cullen Gilchrist's business at Blind Dog; they're also seeking investors and applying for small business financing.

The additional space should allow the collective to take on 70 new members. There are currently about 55, but the group has received more than 400 applications since it opened a little more than a year ago on Congress Street NE near the NoMa-Gallaudet Metro station on the Red Line.

They haven't completely decided how they will divide up the space, but it's possible existing Union Kitchen members will have first right of refusal to move into the new digs.

Its larger home will allow the kitchen to "offer more independent space for a business to grow into a regional business," Singer said.

And with that growth comes the need for storage.

"We know that production space is easier to come by than storage, so we are definitely going to up storage space," he said. That increased space will also allow the group to ramp up its distribution program; it currently has a truck that delivers products from various Union Kitchen businesses to buyers twice a week.

"The more critical mass of businesses we have, the more we can really ramp those up — have more of an impact on the business and culture of the city," Singer said.

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