(Guest post from Capital Kombucha!)
It was the end of the workday in fall 2011. We were riding up the long stairs of the Dupont Circle Metro, proudly holding shopping bags filled with glass bottles of our latest test batch. We were excited, ready to collect feedback from the taste buds of girlfriends, wives, and classmates. As we reached the top of the stairs, the paper bottoms of the bags collapsed against the weight of the glass. The bottles cracked into the moving stairwell, sending carbonated plumes of fermented tea spraying onto suit-wearing Washingtonians riding below us.
We were beginners, hobbyists, and students to boot, trying to follow through on a basic idea to make a healthy drink accessible in Washington D.C. At that moment, the idea that our product, Capital Kombucha, would be sold in a national chain, let alone any respectable commercial business was, well, a dream.
This week Capital Kombucha is now available at the Georgetown location of one of the country’s best-known retailers of high quality food and beverage – Dean & Deluca. In connecting the dots between this milestone in our company’s evolution and that day on the Metro, we have developed a new appreciation for what it means to start a food business.
Back in 2011 we knew that we still had to put in time in what musicians refer to as the woodshed. We needed a place to experiment, fail, and learn from our mistakes. But nobody was going to hand a brewery, especially while we were still honing our craft. And no matter how creative one is, there is only so much space in city apartments. We had a problem.
We found a small kitchen in Petworth that once housed a fish fry, but quickly outgrew it as area markets like Seasonal Pantry, Smucker Farms, and Puree Juice Bar supported not just our product, but also the idea that local food production is not simply a fad. We still needed a place to grow into.
So when we met with the owners of Blind Dog Café who were quietly developing DC’s first food incubator, we believed we were merely in search of more. More space. More equipment. More growth. So, we signed on as one of the first tenants in Union Kitchen.
We set out for “more” and that is precisely what we got. What we found, however, has been more than space, equipment, growth, or an improved bottom line. At Union Kitchen, we have been fortunate enough to tap into a community, a vibrant and collective energy that is rooted in the interaction of food entrepreneurs, designers, and workers, who together, are setting out to alter the course of this country’s food culture – one day, one meal and, dare we say, one drink at a time. And what better place to do this than in the nation’s capital, down the block from where America’s food policy gets built up or broken down.