Food Hub Profile
By David Sullivan, Director of Economic Development & Business Recruitment
Food Hub Entrepreneurs Begin Operating Out of Glass Tower at Lunch Time
In October, the Food Hub moved into the ground floor of the Worcester Plaza at 446 Main Street, otherwise known as the “glass tower” across from city hall. Occupying nearly 8,000 square feet of space that was previously occupied by a bank and has remained vacant for two years, the Food Hub now provides pop-up vendor space for food entrepreneurs that do not yet have a restaurant space.
The entrepreneurs who use the Food Hub’s shared commercial kitchen all have the opportunity to rent space at 446 Main for just $25 a day. Many of the entrepreneurs are immigrants and people of color, and many of them received technical assistance from the Food Hub through a grant from the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation. This grant provided 24 immigrant, women, and entrepreneurs of color with all the necessary permits, licenses, and business planning needed to start a food business, plus receiving a small grant for equipment purchases. Now, many of them can call 446 Main Street home as they prepare to make the jump to open a food truck or restaurant. Wilfredo Millan Jr. is from Venezuela and helps his mother, Cruz Graterol, and his father, Wilfredo Millan Sr., run the family business Tu Arepa out of 446 Main Street. They have been in the United States for four years, and just started their business in 2022. Tu Arepa mainly serves arepas, Venezuelan cornmeal cakes stuffed with meats or cheese, as well as chicken and beef empanadas.
“There are few places to get Venezuelan food in Worcester,” said Millan Jr. “We want to help the community learn about our culture and our food and share it with them.” Tu Arepa can be found at 446 Main Street between 11am and 3pm, on social media, or by phone for pickup orders at 954-668-0731. 446 Main Street is open from 11am to 3pm, Tuesday through Friday. Tu Arepa is there every day. Other businesses operating out of 446 Main Street include Belen, a Salvadoran bakery; Un Toque Borriken, which serves Caribbean fusion food; Unique Café, a Jamaican restaurant and organic juice press; Ohana, which serves plant-based Jamaican food; Underground BBQ; Big Belly BBQ, which is known for its lobster mac and cheese; Caribbean Press; Coco Vibez, an organic juice press; Loly’s Chicken, which serves Peruvian cuisine; and Decimation Deli, which sells sandwiches doused in locally-made Decimation Hot Sauce.
The Food Hub will continue operating out of 446 Main Street for the foreseeable future to serve downtown lunch-seekers. “We want to stay here as long as we can,” said Millan Jr.
Food Hub Receives $175,000 for Diverse Entrepreneur Assistance
Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation, a quasi-state agency with a mission to support underserved business owners in the Commonwealth, awarded a $175,000 grant to the Food Hub from its Small Business Technical Assistance Program. The Food Hub was an awardee last year, securing a similar amount of funding to run its Launching Diverse Food Entrepreneurs program for underserved business owners – mostly immigrants, women, and entrepreneurs of color.
“We are excited to offer this program for the second year in a row, and we are so glad that Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation continues to see the value in our technical assistance programming,” said Food Hub Director Shon Rainford. “Their funding will give underserved food entrepreneurs a full ride to all of the Food Hub’s services in helping them get permits, licenses, pop-up opportunities, and access to the shared kitchen.” The Food Hub will admit 24 entrepreneurs into several weekly classes focused on the basics of business, menu creation, ingredient sourcing, cooking skills, equipment training, and other topics. The Food Hub will be working with Entrepreneurship for All, a local nonprofit that has similar curriculum for entrepreneurs of color in a wide variety of industries. The classes are completely free, and all entrepreneurs come out of the program with all the necessary permits, licenses, certifications, and next steps to start a business. Each participant also becomes a member of the Chamber of Commerce for a full year, receiving all the publicity, networking, direct support, and other benefits from the Chamber.
Applications to join the class will be available soon, and classes will start in 2023. If you know an entrepreneur who would be eligible, please contact the Food Hub at firstname.lastname@example.org.