Patric Moore, business relations manager for Main Street Skowhegan, inside 185 Water St. in downtown Skowhegan, which the nonprofit organization is looking to transform into a shared commercial kitchen. Zara Norman/Morning Sentinel

SKOWHEGAN — The nonprofit group Main Street Skowhegan is looking to build a shared commercial kitchen in the downtown area that would cost at least $1 million and be expected to strengthen the regional food economy.

The space is to be called The Kitchen at 185, a reference to its address: 185 Water St.

Organizers said it would provide a commercial kitchen and food hall for local breweries, orchards, dairy farms, bakers and restaurants to make and sell their goods.

“We’re trying to provide an affordable, accessible means of starting a business,” said Patric Moore, who is spearheading the project as Main Street Skowhegan’s business relations manager.

Moore said he hopes the kitchen would be open by the end of 2024. Construction would cost $1 million to $1.5 million, Moore said, but fundraising is well underway.

The project has already received $195,000 from the Maine Technology Institute, and wireless telecommunications giant T-Mobile announced last week it will award Main Street Skowhegan a $49,940 grant to help build the kitchen.


T-Mobile is awarding $25 million in community development grants for projects in rural areas through 2026, Danielle Babbington, a spokesperson for the company, said last week in a statement to the news media.

Moore said the intention is to transform the 6,000-square-foot space at 185 Water St., the former home of the Somerset Reporter newspaper and a shoemaker.

The building is now vacant and owned by Skowhegan resident Elijah Soll. Main Street Skowhegan would lease the space from Soll, Moore said.

Preliminary designs for the project show food preparation, cooking and dish washing areas, and a bakery, storage space, a freezer and a cooler. The rest of the space, Moore said, could be a food mall, where people can sit and sample what the vendors make.

It is still early in the planning process, and Moore said he is undecided between operating the space as a food hall for vendors selling packaged goods or as a restaurant incubator for three or four eateries at a time.

Either way, the shared kitchen would help answer a community need for more local food options, while giving smaller operators the chance to do business downtown at a lower startup cost, according to Kristina Cannon, executive director of Main Street Skowhegan.


“This is to help businesses that aren’t really ready for a storefront yet,” Cannon said. “It’s an opportunity for caterers and restaurants, too, to start in a space where they don’t have to start their own kitchen.”

Creating a commercial kitchen can run a business as much as $100,000, Moore said, meaning many small businesses take on a financial burden, including large loans, just to open.

“It’s a volatile business,” Moore said. “Getting a storefront, you need to find a place to purchase, or rent. You’ve got to do all of the renovations. There’s some financial barriers.”

Patric Moore, business relations manager for Main Street Skowhegan, outside 185 Water St. in downtown Skowhegan, which the nonprofit organization is looking to transform into a shared commercial kitchen. Zara Norman/Morning Sentinel

The idea is that by renting space from Main Street Skowhegan, local food businesses can scale up their operations in a vibrant downtown setting, hopefully increase their following and look to purchase a storefront and settle in town.

Moore said Main Street Skowhegan, a nonprofit organization, has yet to decide the rent it would charge for space at the kitchen, but the group has been looking at the operations of a similar initiative, Fork Food Lab at 95 Darling Ave. in South Portland.

Fork Food Lab, a shared commercial kitchen, has had “amazing success,” Moore said. According to its website, the project has more than 50 members and charges them a basic annual membership fee of $200. Businesses come to the Fork Food Lab kitchen from across New England and as far north as Augusta, Cannon said.


Like Fork Food Lab, Moore said he hopes The Kitchen at 185 would be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and have its own staff members to oversee operations.

There is some buzz at the moment around shared commercial kitchens, Moore said, adding he has heard Bangor is also looking to start one. More predicted such a facility in Skowhegan would be a draw for businesses throughout central Maine.

Although the Skowhegan area has a breadth of eateries already in operation, Moore said residents are hungry for more.

“People would love a taco or a Mexican establishment. The largest ask was a coffee shop, and now we have Joe’s Flat Iron Cafe, which is exciting,” Moore said. “It’s about providing a space for the community and giving them options.”

Investing in local food and agriculture is one of Main Street Skowhegan’s two major goals, Cannon said. The other is outdoor recreation.

“I think Skowhegan is one of the hidden food destinations,” she said. “The more we can grow that, the more everyone will benefit.”

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