The owners of two Westside eateries hope their new commissary kitchen will be a space that helps local food trucks, pop-ups and catering companies grow their small businesses. Now accepting tenant applications, Neighbors Commissary Kitchen is located on Northwoods Boulevard in North Charleston next to the Carolina Ice Palace.
Daps Breakfast & Imbibe co-owners Nick Dowling and Jeremiah Schenzel and Bodega Todo co-owners Jill Schenzel (Jeremiah’s spouse) and Macready Downer (Jill’s brother) started looking into opening a commissary kitchen three years ago. Jill and Downer, who started Semilla as a food truck in 2017 before later adding a second truck and Westside brick-and-mortar restaurant, wanted to provide a space they wished they’d had when they joined the mobile food industry.
“It’s actually been in the works for a really long time. Once we really started honing in on it, COVID hit,” Jill said. “One of the biggest issues with commissary kitchens that don’t have a secure area for food trucks is stuff getting stolen like generators, which is a huge expense for food truck owners. All the things that we didn’t enjoy about our own experience, we were trying to avoid in this scenario.”
Neighbors Commissary has all the standard equipment inside its 4,000-square-foot space, and tenants can access the kitchen 24 hours a day. Outside, there’s a safe space for food trucks to park, Dowling said.
“We have a fenced-off area that’s gated with security lights, locked up and everything, so trucks can park there and charge their generators and not have to worry about stuff getting lifted off their trucks,” he said.
According to Jeremiah, the group has upgraded the space that was previously occupied by Tristan Catering + Events and will adapt as new tenants sign leases.
“The idea is that everyone has their own things that they need, so we’re kind of treating it like we can grow with what people need,” he said. “We wanted to make it a scalable model.”
Incoming tenants can pay by the hour or month, and Neighbors Commissary will offer discounts for longer leases. The kitchen’s standard rate includes weekly towel distribution along with access to cold and dry storage, prep space and the tasting room.
“There is a flat fee, but everything beyond that flat fee is scalable,” Jeremiah said. “So, if you only need one shelf of dry storage and one shelf of cold storage, that’s how much you’ll pay for. That’s always a problem — you either never have enough storage or have too much storage.”
Jeremiah pointed out restaurants like Swig & Swine that have recently added food trucks as proof that the roving kitchen market is bigger than ever, meaning communal kitchen space is filling up fast.
“That part of dining culture is just present now,” Jeremiah said. “You don’t need a brick-and-mortar to be a successful restaurant owner or chef anymore. Having a food truck or having a pop-up allows you a lot more freedom.”
Neighbors Commissary is designed to not only provide a space where these trucks, private chefs and pop-ups can do their prep work, but ownership will also help tenants along the way.
“Getting business licenses, getting an inspection, getting somebody to build out your truck — we want to be a resource for small business owners,” Jill said. “We basically made every mistake you could possibly make, so (we want to help people) learn from our mistakes.”
Space is currently available for full- and part-time tenants. To schedule a walk-through, email firstname.lastname@example.org.