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Revolving Test Kitchen Reopens with New Focus
September 15, 2021 – 2:16 pm

Left to right: Jessy Melo, Jessy’s Clean Meals; George Ramirez, Lawrence Partnership; Theresa Parks, MassDevelopment; Lane Glenn, NECC; Wendy Estrella, Lawrence Partnership; Mike Kennealy, Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development; Mayor Kendrys Vasquez, Lawrence; Senator Barry Finegold; Representative Marcos Devers; Danny Torres, El Encanto; Hilton Torres, El Encanto.

Lawrence, MA (Sept. 15, 2021)-The first floor of Northern Essex Community College’s 420 Common Street Building in Lawrence is now a shared commercial kitchen and food business incubator that will accommodate a wide range of food businesses, including food trucks, catering companies, small batch manufacturers and food delivery companies, while offering members access to culinary and business experts in the food industry.

In existence since December of 2016, the Revolving Test Kitchen (RTK) is transitioning from an incubator and pop-up restaurant serving one entrepreneur at a time to a culinary facility with a shared commercial kitchen that will benefit multiple food entrepreneurs.

On Monday, Sept. 13, a small group came together to celebrate with a ribbon cutting in the newly renovated space which features culinary workspaces with multiple prep and cook spaces with dry and cold storage.

At the reopening, business and community leaders enjoyed a buffet prepared by two RTK members, Danny Torres of El Encanto, who runs a food truck featuring Puerto Rican foods, and Jessy Melo, owner of Jessy’s Clean Meals, a weekly meal prep service. There was also a short program emceed by Wendy Estrella, Lawrence Partnership board chair and featuring remarks by Lane Glenn, president of Northern Essex, Mike Kennealy, secretary, Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, Kendrys Vasquez, mayor of Lawrence, and George Ramirez, executive director, Lawrence Partnership.

Jessy Melo (left) of Jessy’s Clean Meals shows Lawrence Mayor Kendrys Vasquez (center) the dishes she prepared for the reopening.

“Lawrence is emerging as a growth area for food-based businesses,” said Ramirez. “But with challenges new food service businesses face around capital and start-up costs, many great ideas never get off the ground. This new approach to the RTK offers serious entrepreneurs an important hand up through experts and facilities that make it possible to bring their idea to life and sustain it for the long term.”

President Lane Glenn said “Everything about this space embraces the best of this city…this building was almost empty a few years ago. Now, Northern Essex and Regis are offering classes here, preparing local residents for careers, and this new space will help launch aspiring food entrepreneurs. It’s exciting.”

Danny Torres of El Encanto, who runs a food truck featuring Puerto Rican foods, is a member of the RTK.

Mayor Vasquez said “The Revolving Test Kitchen is a prime example of what we can achieve as a community when we come together to empower our residents, artists, and business owners. This project is going to help a lot of our entrepreneurs who wouldn’t otherwise have access to a kitchen.”

Congresswoman Lori Trahan has been an advocate for the RTK and had hoped to attend the ribbon cutting but was unable to be there. In a written statement, she said “The Lawrence Revolving Test Kitchen is an invaluable asset to our community. In providing local businesses with the space and resources necessary to succeed, the facility creates jobs, promotes workforce training, and supports diverse entrepreneurs looking to grow in the Merrimack Valley.”

“We are looking for businesses to come and join,” said Ramirez. “If you have been cooking from home and are looking to grow, we would love to partner with you.”

RTK members pay a $350 refundable deposit and a monthly base rent of $350 that includes 10 hours of kitchen time as well as well as facility costs, food safety auditing, member meetings and roundtable discussions, and promotion. To learn more, more or access the application, visit the website.

The facility will be open for food production from 4 am to midnight with 24-hour access for its members. Space is booked on a first-come, first-served policy. Members reserve times through an online platform.

The Revolving Test Kitchen is operated by Foundation Kitchen, and funding for the renovations was provided by MassDevelopment and the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA).

Northern Essex Community College has campuses in both Haverhill and Lawrence. It offers approximately 60 associate degree and certificate programs as well as hundreds of noncredit courses designed for personal enrichment and career growth.  Each year, 6,000 students are enrolled in credit associate degree and certificate programs on the Haverhill and Lawrence campuses; and another 2,000 take noncredit workforce development and community education classes on campus, and at businesses and community sites across the Merrimack Valley.  For more information, visit the website at www.necc.mass.edu or call 978-556-3700.

The Lawrence Partnership was launched in 2014 by leaders from local businesses, area banks, nonprofits, educational and healthcare institutions, and government, all committed to building a resilient, inclusive and equitable local economy. Always guided by a people-first strategy, the Partnership develops and implements initiatives that support small businesses, foster leadership and grow the workforce in Lawrence.