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Kindred Kitchen nurturing local food businesses

Wendy Sorquist hand-makes Pashen Bars at Kindred Kitchen, a North Minneapolis food-business incubator.
MinnPost photo by John Reinan
Wendy Sorquist hand-makes Pashen Bars at Kindred Kitchen, a North Minneapolis food-business incubator.

Minneapolis seems to be foodie heaven these days, with acclaimed restaurants opening in every neighborhood, a thriving ethnic dining scene and exciting food items popping up in even the most mainstream grocers.

But I've got my eye on West Broadway, a gritty street in North Minneapolis that shows promise of becoming a new center of local food culture, thanks to Kindred Kitchen.

Kindred Kitchen opened a year ago with the goal of incubating food businesses. A creation of Catalyst Community Partners with major funding from the Pohlad Family Foundation, General Mills and others, Kindred Kitchen offers a commercial kitchen space that food entrepreneurs can rent by the hour.

The organization also offers classes that lead budding businesspeople through the steps necessary for a successful venture: licensing, insurance, food safety, product development, marketing. In its first year, several dozen food entrepreneurs have used Kindred Kitchen as a launching pad, including Natedogs, Vellee Deli and Sweet Jules caramels.

Wendy Sorquist, a North Minneapolis resident, was driving home late one night earlier this year. Through the window of Kindred Kitchen, she saw a woman baking pies. It was the push Sorquist needed.

She and her brother, Pol, had talked about doing something with a recipe developed by their sister, a nutritionist and wellness counselor on the East Coast. With the sister's blessing, Wendy and Pol jumped in. Within a month, they were licensed, insured and making a raw, organic, sprouted energy bar they dubbed Pashen Bars.

Kindred Kitchen offered not only direct support, but also connections to the wider world of food vendors and food buyers. They landed some customers in short order; Pashen Bars are now available in more than a half-dozen locations, including Surdyk's, the Seward Co-op and the Golden Fig.

Wendy Sorquist said their goal is to get the bars in all 44 of Minnesota's food co-ops, noting that Minnesota has more co-ops per capita than any other state. Their most effective marketing activity to date has been old-fashioned sampling; she goes to every Pashen location twice a month and spends two to three hours offering samples and talking with customers.

Pashen is a high-end product, with a suggested retail price of $4.99 for a 2-ounce bar. But sales have progressed steadily, she said, edging into five figures after only six months on the market. The Sorquists make all the bars by hand at Kindred Kitchen, turning out 300 to 1,000 at a time and paying around $25 an hour in kitchen rental.

"We could never have afforded a commercial kitchen," Sorquist said. "This has been just fantastic. We're already talking about adding trail mix and granola."

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