The Hatchery Chicago is a non-profit food and beverage business incubator that enables local entrepreneurs to build and grow successful businesses. Those successful businesses, in turn, create economic growth and new job opportunities in their communities.
Accion Chicago, the city’s largest microlender, and Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago (ICNC), which runs one of the largest business incubators in the country, are the lead nonprofit partners developing the Hatchery project. The 67,000 square-foot facility, currently under construction, will provide space for up to 100 entrepreneurs adjacent to the Kedzie Green Line CTA station in Chicago’s East Garfield Park neighborhood.
The Hatchery’s location next to transit is critical: Food and beverage businesses are ideal for low-income entrepreneurs who are seeking a path to self-sufficiency, yet many individuals may not have reliable access to car. A major focus for ICNC in selecting a location for the Hatchery was having rail access that will be provided by the Kedzie Green Line CTA station.
Since the 1980s ICNC has been running its Make City incubator in the Kedzie Industrial Corridor where 100 entrepreneurs with 550 employees undertake light industrial manufacturing and food production and develop products that are too expensive to import from overseas. Because many clients are downtown, these companies choose to stay close to the Loop, and most employees live nearby and take non-auto modes of transportation to work. The current ICNC space is adjacent to the CTA Green Line, yet is more than a half-mile away from a station. After years of advocacy, a new Green Line station at Damen is under development and will be built by 2020. Decades of yearning for an adjacent station has made investors highly sensitive to the importance of rail transit access at the Hatchery, so they made that a priority in selecting a site.
The Hatchery is committed to ensuring diversity in the next generation of food entrepreneurs. The new facility will house a cooking school targeting youth aged 18 to 24. Students, primarily from the South and West Sides of the city, will access the three-month cooking school program via the Green Line. Led by Rick Bayless, celebrity chef of Frontera Grill, the curriculum will be co-created and co-taught by Bayless along with many of Chicago’s top chefs. The restaurant community will then give students who graduate one-month internships in a restaurant, and if they succeed, will hire them full time.
An emerging retail enterprise in the community is a neighborhood market. When the new Hatchery building opens, this neighborhood market will be housed on-site, adjacent to the CTA station. Customers will be able shop there and at any of the entrepreneurs who sell their products directly to the public. With a focus on health, the market takes advantage of more than 30 local community gardens. The market takes place two times a month and shoppers can use their LINK card and other discount cards to help with affordability. Proceeds from sales support the gardens, funding materials such as fencing, mulch, and irrigation. In addition to produce, several vendors sell prepared foods, including a bakery that is a member of the Hatchery. Increasingly budding entrepreneurs are looking at this neighborhood market as a place to sell products.