The Bauer sisters remember years ago when they had piano recitals at the old Baldwin Music store in downtown Kennewick.
Now they’re trading music lessons for a different soul-satisfying love: food.
Alanna Bauer Lindblom and Courtney Bauer who – along with their mother, Chris Bauer – have a vision of turning the old music store into a food paradise.
The trio hope to open Red Mountain Kitchen by the middle of March.
The commercial kitchen aims to provide 5,000-square-feet of space to aspiring food entrepreneurs to plan, prep and produce their culinary creations.
Plans include a primary kitchen, a baking kitchen, prep kitchen space for multiple users and sanitizing/clean up space.
Monthly rental rates will be available for dry, refrigerated and freezer storage.
Also, a separate flex-space with a demo kitchen will be available to rent for cooking classes, pop-up restaurants, tastings, food and wine pairings, demos for video/live streaming, or food photography.
It’s a dream come true for the women, who have always loved cooking and baking.
“Mom forced us all to cook,” Courtney said. “We were chopping olives when we were 4. She would delegate things at dinner.”
“We all grew up cooking. It’s a skill,” added Alanna, who will be the kitchen’s operations manager.
The sisters said their younger sister, Maddie Bauer, is a pastry chef.
“She’s really who opened our eyes to culinary schools,” Courtney said. “We discussed opening a food truck pod somewhere in the Tri-Cities, like they have in Portland. But after talking to vendors, we realized what they actually needed was a kitchen.”
After looking at a number of existing buildings, the family decided on the old Music Machine store.
The store at 212 W. Kennewick Ave. specialized in music for almost 40 years. But in October 2016, Music Machine went out of business.
The whole launching-a-new-business process, starting with the idea, has taken 18 months.
The family expects the bakery to be a big draw for respective clients and consumers.
The building also has two receiving docks.
“It’ll make it easier for food truck owners to come in and out,” Courtney said.
Courtney said there are 125 food trucks in the region, stretching from Prosser to Pasco.
“We don’t think the number is going go down. It’s going go up,” Courtney said.
The front part of the building’s east side will be a flex area where pop-up restaurants can set up for a day, weekend or a little bit longer.
There is a capacity for 80 people in the flex area, Alanna said.
Cooking classes are another possibility.
“It’ll be like a palette,” Alanna said. “We want people to dream and try it out here.”
Red Mountain Kitchen would be the area’s third largest commissary, a place every food vendor must have to do business.
The other two are the Pasco Specialty Kitchen and Anthology in Richland.
Marilou Shea, who ran the Pasco kitchen up until last year and is now an adjunct instructor in career and technical education at Columbia Basin College, hopes the Bauers can make a go of the kitchen.
“I see two things,” Shea said. “First, they’ll need to run the commissary kitchen like any small business. And second, I think that having an additional commissary in the Tri-Cities is overdue considering the growing culinary interest in our community. I’m excited for them.”
So is Luke Hallowell, executive director at the Downtown Pasco Development Authority, which oversees the Pasco Specialty Kitchen.
“We recognize that it will make us step up our game, and that we’ll likely collaborate and compete at the same time, similar to the way the Downtown Pasco Development Authority and Historic Downtown Kennewick Partnership collaborate and compete,” Hallowell said. “I do think there is room in the Tri-Cities for another commissary. A retail study I have from three to four years ago says we had a ‘sales leakage or opportunity gap’ of 34 percent for dining in Tri-Cities and a 42 percent in Pasco. So there’s still work to do in that area, and if another commissary helps fill that gap, I think that’s a really good thing for our community.”
Hallowell also mentioned a proposed culinary school planned for Columbia Gardens Wine & Artisan Village on Columbia Drive in Kennewick. A funding source for the $10 million school hasn’t yet been identified.
“I think that will play an even bigger role on the supply side because I think that’s as critical to meeting that gap as another commissary kitchen is,” Hallowell said.
The Bauer sisters said Emily Estes-Cross, the economic development and tourism director for the city of Kennewick, squealed with delight when they told her what they wanted to do.
“She’s been a key to us this entire project,” Alanna said.
Estes-Cross said she is very excited about the business.
“It does a few different things,” she said. “First, it brings a previously vacant building into production in a revitalization area. Second, it’s a need in the market place.”
Estes-Cross said she had just returned from an event where she ran into a couple of food vendors who told her they needed a kitchen in Kennewick. Right after that, she got the call from the Bauers.
“This is economic development in its purest form,” she said.
Estes-Cross said the city has conducted surveys the last few years, asking what people would like to see in downtown Kennewick.
“Restaurants and eateries were the No. 1 answer each time,” she said. “But a bakery was also high on the list.”
The sisters see their new place as a gathering place for the community.
“We’re excited about making connections in the community,” Courtney said.
But they also know they have to create a business model that works.
“We want to have at least 10 vendors for the first year, and that may not even be aggressive enough,” Courtney said. “One of the things we’ll measure our success by is when a client gets too big and goes out on their own.”
But it’s the goal of bringing people together through food that really seems to be driving them.
“We’re excited about the restaurant scene in the Tri-Cities,” Courtney said. “And we want to help foster that creativity. We want to be here for the community.”
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