Bedford Collab. Building and Enriching Evansville Food Businesses

By. Emma Ault

Bedford Collab is a newly developing a shared kitchen in the Tepe Park area on the South side of Evansville, IN. A shared kitchen is a place where multiple food business owners can rent out space to cook and prepare their food.

The idea for Bedford Collab started when DeAndre Wilson and his brother, Jeff Gott, started with a catering business called TurnTable. After being forced to move to two different shared kitchens in the area to cook their food, they felt the community needed a steady, welcome space for food entrepreneurs, or “foodpreneurs” as they like to say, to develop their skills in their business and foster a creative mindset. This involved anyone who is working on starting or continuing their food business in the Evansville area.

Wilson states, “’Foodpreneurs is defined as food truck owners, caterers, bakers, anyone who is in the food industry that needs a grease trap to produce their product or service.”

Bedford Collab is working to combat the inaccessibility of nutritious food and workspace in the South side and downtown by providing workspace for local restaurant and catering upstarts, while also trying to combat food insecurity in the community.

“We don’t want the next generation of ‘foodpreneurs’ to go through what we’ve gone through,” Wilson says. “We need to actually do something about it now, so Bedford Collab is a low-entry access point for ‘foodpreneurs’ to get in here and run their business pretty simple. That’s how we are giving back. We want to simplify the process for those who come after us.”

Bedford Collab, previously known as the Bedford Tavern, is a beautiful brick structure, with plenty of space for the imagination to run wild. Built in 1919, the building is steadily being renovated by DeAndre Wilson and his business partner, Merrick Korach.

“It’s been a staple in the neighborhood,” Wilson says. “It was a laundromat at one point, a grocery store, and, of course, a tavern, so we want to keep it and bring it back to life.”

Half of the $161,000 dollars raised for Bedford Collab in 2020 went toward gutting the building, which was in disrepair after decades of abandonment. Through generous donors and partners, Bedford Collab is fully funded.

On the ground floor, Bedford Collab plans to have five prep stations in the center, a 19’ hood system, two convection ovens, two standard ovens, a tilt skillet, a steamer and a broiler, as well as a three-compartment, two-compartment sink, and a dishwasher for clean-up. They also plan on adding a walk-in refrigerator attached to the building.

In one corner of the building, there will be extra prep space, and even a small spot for an outdoor pop-up for any “foodpreneur” to test a new product or dish. Upstairs will be more prep/kitchen space. “Foodpreneurs” won’t be able to cook upstairs, but that added prep space makes things easier for them to make homemade sauces, rubs, or soaps. In the basement, they plan on having lockable cabinets, a small library, and places for “foodpreneurs” to have some extra space.

One huge innovation to Bedford Collab is their Hydroponic System Wall. The 12’x12’ surface will be able to grow fresh produce year-round without the use of soil.

The space is also will open to pop-up events, for which outdoor seating will be available. Under a beautiful canopy of trees, this space opens up the opportunity to host other events, like galas, parties, and charity events, locally.

Bedford Collab will be beneficial to those who have food trucks because it has a grease trap. “Foodpreneurs” who use grease to cook need a place to safely dispose of that grease, and Bedford Collab will provide that service through a grease trap.

Wilson and Korach plan to make the building a bright and inviting space. They want to hire local Evansville artists and students to cover the walls in murals, with a new mural every three to four years.

DeAndre and his partners want to encourage the creativity those artists bring to the community. “The sky is the limit on what we can do,” he says. “Let your imagination run wild.”

In addition to the main building, there is a shell of a building from the early 1900s on a corner of the property, where Wilson says they plan on having a produce storage facility.

 “We’re going to keep it and fill it in with some walls, ventilation, electricity. All leftover produce that producers and gardeners try to get rid of, we’re just going to bring it here and store it. It’ll be good to have a small distribution center of produce that can be distributed for free or at a really, really low cost,” says Wilson.

On Sundays, Bedford Collab plans to host a chef to prepare meals from the leftover produce for local residents to take home for little to no cost. This will provide healthy, nutritious food for those living in the middle of a health food priority area. Through grants, Bedford Collab is able to also repave much of their spacious sidewalks around the building, even to the Evansville Leadership Academy, just down the street.

Wilson says, “This is bringing some night life, something to do for kids. We have kids that live across the street form us with nothing to do, so we’re able to be a staple again in the neighborhood in terms of food, not providing alcohol this time as what it did once before, but definitely food and being a safe space for residents to know they can get what they need, talk to their neighbors, network, whatever the case may be.”

One upside of starting something new in Evansville is the word-of-mouth advertising. Evansville civilians like to try new restaurants and show up to events, so getting people talking about Bedford Collab is a great place to start.

“We encourage others to keep talking about Bedford Collab,” Wilson encourages. “Talk about it until people are blue in the face. Let them hear it over and over and over again until they’re tired of it because that’s what we need right now.”

The South Side of Evansville, much like the Bedford Collab building, has be dis-invested in for far too long, but Wilson and his partners are on a mission to breathe life back into the area.

“The South side of Evansville hasn’t been economically invested in for the last 85 years, so this is the start of something new, a major change,” Wilson says.

The South Side is also a healthy food priority area, which means people living in that area don’t have a grocery store with fresh produce within a mile of where they live. With many of the innovations and resources Bedford Collab can provide for the community, it’s not near enough.

The bottom line is the Evansville community needs to show up for one another. DeAndre Wilson and his business associates seized an opportunity to revitalize their neighborhood. When you’re there for your friends and neighbors, the results can be healing and nourishing to a community that has needs it.

To keep up with any Bedford Collab updates, follow them on Facebook at Bedford Collab

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