Given the state of the world and the steady stream of negative garbage that flows through our news feeds every day, acts of kindness and generosity have an outsized impact and seem to shine that much brighter.
When commercial kitchen space Pilotworks abruptly shut down over the weekend, it wasn’t just employees and investors of the company that were impacted. Because Pilotworks was trying to build the “AWS for kitchens,” it’s closure sent shockwaves through the food entrepreneur community. The closure of the Brooklyn Pilotworks location alone impacted 175 food vendors working out of there, and Pilotworks had locations in Newark, Chicago, and Dallas (not to mention the Providence and Portland, ME locations that it closed earlier this year).
The stress associated with an office location shutting down is bad enough, but when your business is food, there is an additional layer of anxiety because your inventory and product are perishable. All the ingredients (literally) that make up your business need to be stored properly, and might require specialized equipment that can be large and bulky. Basically, when Pilotworks closed its doors so quickly, people had to scramble and come up with a solution fast.
This is where it all gets heartwarming. Out of the ashes of Pilotworks arose a vibrant community that immediately sprang into action to help.
We at The Spoon were inundated with comments and tweets and emails from kitchens near Pilotworks locations offering space. A Slack channel and resource website were set up. But we are on the outside, looking in. Nick Shippers of Ube Kitchen sent me the following note that really captured what went on from someone who was directly impacted:
What we learned through this chaos is that the soul of Pilotworks had always been the makers who created a coalition within hours. We jumped into pools of rides, with equipment still our laps, to tour other kitchens and process a transition as soon as possible. Slack channels filled with help as it came in from all over the city and country to help shift operations and provide resources for everyone’s needs. The outpouring of support, at all hours of the day, reflects that there is still a very organic force of food makers in New York City that will come back stronger.
Right now, most of the help seems to be centered around NYC/Newark, NJ businesses, though we have heard from a few Dallas and Chicago operations offering their help.
I’m sure all the entrepreneurs impacted by Pilotworks would have preferred it if Pilotworks stayed open and everyone could have gone about their business as usual. But it’s the worst moments that define us, and from what we can tell, the food community will only get stronger from this.