What is Pretzel City Kitchens (PCK)?
PCK is a certified, shared-use commercial kitchen planned for Freeport, IL. It will specialize in emerging and established food-based ventures/businesses, helping during start-up and expansion periods. PCK will provide kitchen equipment, processing space, and support services for those looking to:
- Develop new products
- Expand production from home kitchen processing
- Test market ideas before making investments in equipment and storefront
Why the name?
The region has a long history of a food-fed economy – from local farms, to entrepreneurial bakeries, breweries, and dairy bars. In the late 1850s, many German immigrants, both from Pennsylvania and from their European homeland, resettled in Stephenson County bringing with them a number of cultural traditions and recipes, including beer and pretzels. Freeport became known as Pretzel City, USA, when the resident Billerbeck Bakery – established in 1869 – became a regional market force with its own twist on production and sales of this tasty snack.
What are the goals?
PCK, which is community-based and collaborative in nature, is focused on these five core goals:
- Education – teach the public and students about food production, agriculture, and food safety in a commercial setting
- Food Security – provide critical equipment and facilities that support local/regional food production and consumption and reduce dependence on global supply chains
- Downtown Reinvestment – support Freeport’s culinary development, providing locally produced food for area restaurants and assist start-up businesses that could locate downtown
- Health and Wellness – increase access to fresh, healthy foods. Provide nutrition, food preparation, and culinary education and outreach in the community
- Youth Development – build partnerships with youth-serving agencies to promote food business and culinary education and training
What services will be offered?
PCK will offer the following amenities and services:
- Affordable, certified commercial kitchen space available to rent
- Turnkey services to help businesses start-up and expand
- Education and training opportunities
- Opportunities for networking
- Dry and cold storage space
- Space to showcase and sell local food products
- Available at no cost to nonprofits or organizations looking to raise funds for their own charitable purposes and require the use of a certified commercial kitchen
CareerTEC Education Partnership
CareerTEC is a career and technical education consortium which offers classes to high school juniors and seniors. They serve six local school districts in Illinois: Dakota, Durand, Freeport, Pearl City, Pecatonica, and Orangeville.
CareerTEC offers a Culinary Occupations course designed to prepare students for a profession in the food service industry. Students are educated in all aspects food production, food safety, and career opportunities. This class will be taught at PCK, giving students a unique opportunity to learn the trade in a professional, commercial environment.
University of Illinois Extension Education Partnership
The University of Illinois Extension office is dedicated to supporting the growth of specialty crop production through education and training and connecting farmers with PCK to add value to crops. They plan to hold a variety of classes at PCK to educate the public, growers, and business owners.
What is the status?
- Project Team: the City of Freeport, University of Illinois-Extension, CareerTec, and Freeport Downtown Development Foundation have formed a partnership to advance the project. They are supported by several local and regional stakeholders.
- Funding: organizers have a fundraising goal of $400,000. These funds will be used to renovate the space, purchase equipment, and provide funds for operations.
- Timeline: organizers hope to open in fall 2017.