Culinary incubators seem to be popping up all over lately; Miami is about to get its first, smack dab in the most trendy, artsy area of the city. But it won’t be just about food.
Wynwood Yard is the brainchild of 2014 Harvard Business School grad Della Heiman, who’s working toward a grand opening in November. She intends for it to be a community gathering place, and also a farm-to-table garden (literally). In it, she hopes to seed and grow not only food-oriented startups, including her own Della Test Kitchen, but also fitness-, art- and design-centered ones.
There will be a bar, covered outdoor seating, art and design displays, and an additional educational/community events component, as well as an architectural anchor.
Its setting is four grassy, adjoining, residential lots at 70 N.W. 29th St. in the Wynwood Arts District. The space will host four food kiosks or food trucks, of which two are already aboard; more participants are being sought.
The first “cohort,” as Heiman terms the entrepreneurs who will make up the “collaborative ecosystem,” will operate for several months (exact interval to be determined), when they’ll have an opportunity to sell their business concepts to a group of investors, real estate developers and other business owners.
A brain trust collaborative
Heiman also is assembling some fellow Harvard Business School graduates to form a brain trust that will assist the cohort, according to media coordinator Trina Sargalski. Then another cohort will be welcomed in, and another, if there’s time; Heiman’s lease on the lots expires next July. Plans beyond these are yet to be laid.
But there is already a site plan, Sargalski said. “It’s actually going to change a little, because since she (Heiman) designed that plan, the prominent Wynwood architectural firm RoyalByckovas got in touch with her, and now they’re collaborating on the actual design of the site.”
RoyalByckovas has its own edgy startup, Wyn-Box, which will be installing a container home prototype (read: shipping container) on the site, dubbed LivBox.
Sargalski described that part of the plan: “People will actually be able to rent out that container home for private dinner parties. So it’s not just going to be a display item, it can be used.”
Plans also are being drawn up to host successful restaurateurs and other entrepreneurs for cooking demonstration and business-oriented lectures. “For some of the demos and talks [the LivBox] can be used as well; it will be a nice air-conditioned space for people to gather in,” she said.
Pop-up bar, sushi truck, sustainable gardener signed on
So far signed on to use the space are:
- Myumi – a traditional omakase-style sushi truck that has been operating out of another Wynwood lot close by. Owner Jake Smith, who’s originally from Brooklyn and helped bring the food truck to Miami, said the Yard offers a different kind of opportunity. “It’s exactly the kind of cool, collaborative environment food startups like us are looking for in Miami,” he said.
- Della Test Kitchen – Heiman’s own startup. “Della is actually her original fast-casual, plant-based food concept,” said Sargalski. “She plans to open several branches of Della around the country eventually, but this is sort of the more iterative R&D version of Della. She’ll be serving all plant-based bowls.” Heiman has hired the former chef of Norman’s and Restaurant Brana in Coral Gables, Jeffrey Brana, to be her director of culinary operations. He’ll supervise research and design plus her truck’s daily operations. Her website, dellabowls.com, has her menu as currently contemplated.
Lemon City Tea is also on board – “It’s a local tea company that will serve some of their teas. They use local fruits to make their dried teas,” Sargalski said. There will be a pop-up bar to be named later as well, where Lemon City’s products will be used.
Preparations are proceeding, and Sargalski announced that Heiman has brought on board Muriel Olivares and Tiffany Noe of the Little River Cooperative to build a sustainable garden.
“They operate a CSA out of that neighborhood; it’s been a real unique and successful project. At this point, her CSA shares sell out really quickly every year. They will start planting the first week of October,” Sargalski said. “The Yard has an enormous raised bed space, so they will be growing many things, including greens like baby arugula and kale, herbs like basil, mint, and rosemary, heirloom tomatoes, turmeric, and ginger.”
Olivares is excited about this chance to draw more people into the burgeoning farm-to-table community in South Florida.
“When Tiffany Noe and I joined together to turn the farm into the Little River Cooperative, we decided we wanted to do more than grow vegetables. We also wanted to be more connected to the community by installing and managing gardens in community spaces where we could educate people about growing food in South Florida and about how we do that,” she said.
Noe is owner of Plantmatter nursery in Miami and joined with Olivares to form the cooperative in 2013. They call it “a multifaceted plant-based business designed to provide Miami with a number of gardening and vegetable services,” which include consultation, installation, and maintenance services for backyard organic gardeners.
A community need to fill
“The Wynwood Yard is a unique opportunity because so far, we’ve mostly worked on restaurant and private gardens. The Yard seems like it will be a much more open public gathering space so we feel like the garden there will reach a lot more people,” Olivares said.
Sargalski shed some light on how Heiman came to get behind such an ambitious concept as The Wynwood Yard:
“Her initial goal was to open the first of many ‘Della’ fast-casual, plant-based restaurants. She’s originally from Cleveland, Ohio, and did research on places where a business such as Della, that’s affordable to all, would be successful. Also because of the existing dining climate in Miami, her research led her to Miami as the place to start it.
“She came specifically to Miami to open the first one, with the goal of opening around the country – and that’s still the goal – but she encountered so many challenges as far as landlords and leasing,” Sargalski said.
“She had the money, but it was just really challenging to find a space, and she realized that maybe other entrepreneurs were having this challenge. So she found the Wynwood Yard after looking for months for a space for Della. She decided to make it more than just a space for her but also to turn it into a culinary incubator.
“She saw a need here that she could fill.”
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To learn more, visit The Wynwood Yard website. Those interested in becoming one of the start-ups can send proposals through a link there.