What’s cooking at The Kitchen? Inquiring minds want to know.
When signs went up on the door at the former Utopia Bakery location and on the Willow Street side of the building formerly occupied by Misfits Fitness Studio and Health Bar in Chemainus, the buzz started about what this new downtown business might encompass.
“We do have a lot of curiosity which is good,” said Annette Brama, owner of The Kitchen with husband Brian.
Everything hasn’t exactly been kept up under wraps, it’s just been taking a while for the Bramas to renovate the building to suit their needs and prepare everything for opening. The business will feature a retail space on Willow Street, but also a space for caterers, bakers or other people in the food business to utilize the space and equipment that includes The Kitchen sink.
“We’re hoping to be open by the beginning of November so we can get the Christmas rush of November-December,” said Brian Brama.
The Bramas made their debut to the public, along with Brian’s mom Renate, during the Cowichan Craft Beer & Food Festival at the Chemainus Ball Park on Aug. 13.
They’re looking forward to becoming fully operational.
“This is a great community and there’s lots of opportunity here to give small entrepreneurs to get going,” said Annette.
“We’ve got lots of contacts with the local markets. It’s all about building local networking.”
The Bramas started The Kitchen with a Duncan location on Polkey Road before purchasing the building in Chemainus for a second outlet.
“The Kitchen in Duncan is three years old,” Annette indicated. “They have their nice community within that little kitchen. They all share contacts, markets. They help each other out.”
She describes the concept as follows: “It’s a bakery with a shared commercial space for any small local producers and offering that rental component for the Chemainus community.
“We took that model we have in Duncan and having this type of building, it gave us options to do other things.”
The Kitchen has already taken on some clients. “It’s ready for anybody who wants to call and come and see it,” added Annette. “We also help where we can through any processes.”
Truffula, originating in Alberta, has already set up shop to produce dairy-free, plant-based cheeses on the site.
The Bramas want to make sure they’re 100 per cent ready before opening for the retail component which will include an extensive selection of items made at the on-site bakery where Utopia was formerly located and under the direction of red seal baker Brad Williams, who’s worked all over North America and is part of the permanent team.
“He’s really a great pastry chef,” praised Annette. “We’ll be focusing on breads, but the sky’s the limit for us on the bakery side. He’s also going to be overseeing all the operations here and we’re going to be offering apprenticeships to work in the bakery as well.”
Williams, 43, actually met the Bramas quite by chance at the Duncan facility. “I rented a kitchen from them to use the dish area,” he explained. “They didn’t even know I was a pastry chef.”
One thing led to another and Williams, who grew up in Ladysmith and did the cook training program at Malaspina College, became a key member of the new enterprise.
“It’s pretty exciting when you get a hive of activities,” he said. “It’s great to bring something together for the community and bring together local producers as well.”
There will eventually be a different name for the retail space in Chemainus.
Building renovations have opened up the whole side that formerly housed the fitness studio. “We also built a ramp so when they receive product they come down here,” noted Annette.
The Bramas own the building and are thus the landlords so “there’s no middle person,” stressed Annette. “We look after all the equipment and we do all the maintenance.”
Brian has owned a mechanical company, Brama Cooling Techniques, for more than 30 years and “we’ve always been self-employed,” said Annette.
They Bramas are originally from Richmond Hill, Ontario, but previously lived in Germany for two years and then spent three years in Florida where they owned their own bulk foods store and expanded to two. They’ve been in the Cowichan Valley the last three years.
As for their latest enterprise, “this is our retirement plan, although it’s a busy retirement plan,” chuckled Annette.
One of the things they’re planning to do in Chemainus eventually is showcase the history of the building that more recent arrivals to town are probably unaware used to be a movie theatre.
The Bramas hope they’re opening up some realistic options for many people in the community and are willing to make flexible arrangements.
“You can rent by the day, you can rent monthly,” said Annette. “We work with the producers depending what their needs are. Anybody who wants to start any kind of business where they’re more than just selling at the market, we are offering this space. We invested the money so they have the ease on focusing on their business.”
You can find out more by emailing email@example.com, phoning 250-252-8440 or going to www.thekitchen.com.