Posted: 08/19/2022 16:25:19
Modified: 08/19/2022 16:21:53
HEATH – When the city decided to keep the old primary school at 18 Jacobs Road as a public building, officials began to get creative with funding maintenance.
One idea they circulated was to rent out the building’s kitchen for commercial and community purposes. After years of planning, Heath is almost ready to offer the kitchen for this purpose.
Building Uses Committee chair Pam Porter said the committee had seen Leyden’s rental kitchen, located at Town Hall, as a model. According to Randy Crochier, regional health officer at the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG), Leyden cuisine is primarily used by the Council on Aging but is available for other uses.
Additionally, Porter said that when Heath officials brought an estate agent to 18 Jacobs Road, he explained that the kitchen could potentially generate revenue for the town.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the building usage committee got to work updating the kitchen and getting the proper licenses. Like many projects over the past two years, their work has been slowed by the pandemic and ensuing equipment stock-outs.
When the committee began updating the Jacobs Road location, the members decided to offer the community hall kitchen, located at 1 East Main Street, for rent as well. The Jacobs Road site is now ready for inspection and the municipal authorities are awaiting a piece of equipment for the community hall kitchen.
Porter also said there is a need for a commercial kitchen in the hills, although the Franklin County Community Development Corporation (CDC) in Greenfield offers a more central resource. On the Worcester County border, a commercial kitchen and shared-use event space is planned for the former Pleasant Street School in Athol.
“CDC’s kitchen is a wonderful resource, but it only works for large farms,” she said. “Our goal is to provide what appears to be a much needed facility for farmers in West County.”
“If you want to make 100 pints, stay at Heath,” Crochier noted of production levels. “If you want to make 1,000, go to the CDC.”
At the Jacobs Road location there is a steamer to assist with canning and a fermentation oven for baking. This equipment can help residents with large kitchen projects.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Crochier said of Heath’s commercial kitchens. “It will be much easier than allowing your own kitchen.”
Porter said the building use committee had recently been downsized and lacked knowledge about allowing such a kitchen. So Porter struck a deal with Alice Lee, a Heath resident and owner of Delicatesse in Shelburne Falls, to run the kitchen. Lee is given permission to use the kitchens for his business in exchange for running the kitchens for rental.
“She was a natural choice, being a resident of Heath,” Porter said. “She makes amazing food in little space, so I thought this barter would come in handy.”
Lee has no current plans for the kitchen, but this arrangement could be useful in the future, Porter said.
A cooperative program is underway for the freezer at the Jacobs Road location. Porter explained that paying for electricity would be expensive for one person, but hopes that three to five farmers will be interested in the freezer space to pay for electricity together. Both kitchens also have adjoining function rooms which can be used to host events.
“People can have church weddings, and you can have your reception at the community hall,” Porter said.
The kitchen rental rate is $50 per hour, with discounted rates for community members who do not use the kitchen for business purposes. Interested customers can visit hilltownkitchens.com for more information.
Bella Levavi can be reached at 413-930-4579 or [email protected]