For the 2nd Annual Summer Community Celebration, held on August 4, 2018, Bridget Jones, owner of Savannah Soul Food Trailer, started her food prep a week before the Saturday event. At last year’s event, Jones’ trailer saw about 400 transactions, from either main meals, desserts, or sodas.
On Saturday morning, on event day, she will drive her food trailer to McMillen Park at around 11 A.M. and will start cooking her chicken around 12:30 P.M., “to get that scent going,” Jones said.
She also serves a fuller menu including collard greens and mac and cheese. For the 10th Annual Taste of Arts, set to drop August 24 and 25, 2018, Jones is expected to cook 300 pounds of chicken wings, for her famous chicken and waffles, and at least ten full size trays of peach cobbler.
And based on her previous experiences, from her catering events to parking her trailer at Sweetwater’s GearFest, Jones expects to sell almost all of her inventory. She may have some chicken left, but she has “never walked away with any peach cobbler,” Jones said.
Her bookings have only slowed now because she’s caregiving for a relative. “That put a slight wrinkle in what I do for my business but that’s what the responsibility of love is for a loved one. You do what needs to be done,” Jones said.
Jones began as a food entrepreneur with the ownership of a storefront restaurant back in Fort Wayne in the early 2000s.
She operated BJ’s Seafood Heaven out of the strip plaza that rests at the corner of Rudisill Boulevard and Lafayette Street on the South Side, cattycorner from Arby’s.
“[I opened during] the early stages of the recession, right around 9/11,” Jones said, explaining that she closed shop in 2005.
After several moves around the country, Jones moved back to Fort Wayne a few years ago and wanted to re-enter the cooking business, but this time, without a physical location.
“If I go back in, I’m going to go back in a little frugal with something that doesn’t have as much overhead expenses,” Jones said of her decision to start a storefront-less business, inspired by the food truck craze in Fort Wayne.
When she made the decision, Jones reached out to Brightpoint (formerly CANI) for a loan to purchase a trailer for her food business. But in the meantime, she entered Taste of the Arts in 2016 with only a tent and a fryer to get started.
Her chicken and waffles were so well received that she came back to the annual food event again in 2017, and she was slammed with customers all day.
CookSpring, a shared kitchen
She uses the kitchen in her trailer for most of her cooking needs, but she still uses shared kitchen CookSpring, located at The Summit complex at 1025 West Rudisill Boulevard. CookSpring, boasting 4800-square feet of cooking space, is considered a commercial kitchen not for its size but because it is licensed through the Allen Country Board of Health.
Fort Wayne has other commissaries, for example, church kitchens, but “not to the scale as ours,” said Troy Tiernon, CookSpring’s kitchen coordinator and space manager.
CookSpring has four main kitchens, and Jones utilizes the refrigerated storage there. She also stores dry goods and prep materials on site.
“I do the heavy lifting at the commissary,” Jones said.
While she could also use her church’s kitchen at the New Zion Tabernacle for cooking, she said the downside to that option is not being able to reserve a fixed time to cook and having to work around the church’s schedule, which can be unpredictable.
At CookSpring, she knows she has a place when she needs it.
“24-hour access [to CookSpring’s kitchen], that’s the beauty of it,” she said.
CookSpring is a philanthropic arm of the parent company Ambassador Enterprises, which is a community-focused investment firm, serving for-profit and nonprofit organizations.
Membership and all the perks that come with it start with an application on CookSpring’s website at CookSpringFW.com.
To rent the space, culinary entrepreneurs also need to have their own insurance, but Tiernon said the program works with a local insurance company to keep the price cost-effective for new ventures, which play a large role in the program’s mission.
The space often serves as a launch pad for entrepreneurs to test their ideas.
Published with permission from Input Fort Wayne. Stories can be accessed on their website, InputFortWayne.com.