The embattled former Pilotworks space — the small business incubator that abruptly folded at the end of 2018 and stranded its roughly 175 vendors — now has a new tenant: well-regarded restaurant industry nonprofit Hot Bread Kitchen. The company is currently transitioning its headquarters from East Harlem to the 11,000-square-foot space inside the former Pfizer Building at 630 Flushing Avenue, between Marcy Avenue and Tompkins Avenues, in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Like Pilotworks, Hot Bread Kitchen has a local food business incubator program. But the nonprofit also has a training arm, with graduates placed in jobs at restaurants like Breads Bakery, Russ & Daughters, and Roberta’s. It’s also known for its wholesale bakery, which supplies bread to grocery stores and restaurants across the city like Whole Foods and chef Daniel Boulud’s Boulud Sud on the Upper West Side, and it recently opened a stall at Chelsea Market that features products from its incubator members.
At the new headquarters, Hot Bread Kitchen’s head of workforce Karen Bornarth plans to expand the training program, which currently sends more than 100 women per year to jobs at companies such as restaurateur Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, fast-casual chain Dig, and corporate catering company Restaurant Associates.
And many of the former Pilotworks businesses are signed on at Hot Bread Kitchen, according to head of small business Kobla Asamoah. When it shut down, Asamoah’s team talked to about 90 businesses that had been stranded by the startup and ended up signing on about 33 of them. Andre Springer, who owns popular hot sauce brand Shaquanda Will Feed You, will be moving back in at 630 Flushing, alongside preservative-free jam company Oswald & Co, and Umikah, which sells small-batch curds and spreads.
The food incubator space has had a rough few years. It started out as Brooklyn Food Works, which was then bought out by Pilotworks when the company took it over in 2016. Hot Bread Kitchen explored leasing the space immediately after Pilotworks went under, but another renter, who also owned a food and beverage incubator program called Nursery, surfaced and briefly laid claim over the location, before backing out weeks later.
But Hot Bread Kitchen is no start-up — it’s been around for a decade and gained a reputation for establishing careers for women in the food industry. Vendors at the space say that the nonprofit offers business support that sets it apart, including coaching and advice on city permitting.
“I’ve learned so much about how to look at things from the perspective of a food business owner,” says Springer. “I don’t think I would have been able to [run my business] correctly or even to grow as much as I did in the last year if it wasn’t for everyone at Hot Bread Kitchen.”