In September 2019, the Port of South Whidbey received permit approval from the City of Langley for the expansion and renovation of the Coffman building at the Island County Fairgrounds.
This is the moment the Port and Goosefoot had been waiting for. After five years of research and planning, construction could begin on expanding the existing commercial kitchen and updating the meeting space, most notably used for 4-H activities, community fundraisers and events.
But the enthusiasm was short-lived after the project went out to public bid. Port Districts are held to strict regulations when it comes to awarding projects to contractors. Contractors are expected to follow every specification on the drawings to the letter.
That can have a big effect on the bottom line.
“The lowest bid came in $300,000 higher than our project budget,” according to Stan Reeves, the Port’s executive director. “It was a big letdown.”
The main goal of their collaboration is to incubate new food businesses on South Whidbey Island through improvements to the existing kitchen at the site, and the building of a separate kitchen to be used exclusively for baking. Planned upgrades include walk-in cold storage, additional convection ovens, a proofer and professional-grade processing equipment, such as mixers and a steam jacketed kettle to allow for more efficient and bigger production runs.
“Economic development is central to both of our missions, so this is a perfect collaboration,” said Curt Gordon, port commissioner, District 3. “The Port and Goosefoot have been on the same page since day one, and we are all committed to seeing this project through to the end.”
This kitchen will be geared toward culinary entrepreneurs of all stripes: those wishing to produce and sell products—whether baked goods, jams, sauces or soups—teach classes, offer pop-up restaurants, cater meals, or do something with a bumper crop of produce.
While the Port is overseeing the necessary renovations to the building for the kitchen expansion, Goosefoot is providing all the new equipment mentioned above. They will also be responsible for managing all aspects of the kitchen and rentals once the project is completed.
“Goosefoot is more confident than ever that this commercial kitchen facility is needed here on Whidbey,” said Sandy Whiting, Goosefoot’s executive director. “With Whidbey’s unique mix of farmers, foodies and entrepreneurs, a facility like this is needed.”
“We are exploring options on how to reduce costs in the current plans and still meet our base requirements,” Reeves said. “Worst case scenario is that we reduce the project scope. We prefer to have an improved meeting space as part of the renovation, but our first priority is expanding the commercial kitchen facility.”
In the meantime, the current kitchen continues to be available for those needing a commercially licensed facility in which to prepare food items. Those interested in renting the kitchen should contact the Port of South Whidbey.