The Long, Slow Search for Commissaries

Posted by Lilly on May 4, 2012 at 11:00 AM

I've hit a wall.  After initially thinking that starting up an Italian Ice vending business in under three months was impossible, and then finding that it was actually doable (with very long days and hard work), and getting so darn close to the trophy, I have now come to a complete and utter stopping point.  I can't find a commissary. 

I have contacted over 30 businesses and organizations in and around my hometown, and no one has space, ability or permission to act as my commissary.  As it turns out, I am hardly alone in this position.  Online searches have led me to forums and advertisements for countless other food entrepreneurs searching out a commercial kitchen to rent.  My needs aren't even close to what they require.  I'm not preparing food, so I won't be using the refrigerators or any of the appliances.  I've been sure to state very specifically that all I need is water, sinks, shelf and freezer space and that I'll only need to use the kitchen no more than 8 times a month.  And still it's a barren wasteland of responses, one rejection followed by another.  If I had any reservations about going forward with this pushcart vending business, it would be now.

And yet, there are a few glimpses of sunshine that keep me pursuing my goal.  For one, there are other food vendors who have found commissaries offering much more than I need.  If they can do it, certainly I can too.  Maybe my adjustment needs to be in the area of expectations.  It's not going to happen overnight.

But I wanted to share these glimmers of hope with you that have been my driving force.  I wear a ring on my finger every day that states "Nothing Is Impossible".  And last night, in utter frustration, I let out a deep sigh and said loudly, "I've hit a wall."  My son who overheard me and sensed my upset, immediately replied in a Scottish accent, "When you hit a wall, you push through it!"  I was floored.  It's my favorite line from the animated movie The Adventures of Tin Tin.  He is right.

Today, while I started my day with a continued series of rejections, I was reminded of another of my favorite quotes, which I see daily on my cell phone's home page.  It reads, "There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for me in its hands."  And one contact who got back to me, after replying that she couldn't help me with my commissary request, asked however, if I'd be willing to donate Italian Ice for their large upcoming 5K event.  The local Rita's, it turned out, committed to donating one tub.  I committed to two and also offered to arrive with my pushcart to scoop the ice.  She responded with delight and enthusiasm at the idea.  She's working with a very large synagogue in my town, and the enormous exposure for me would be an ideal way to kick off my business. 

Shortly after that little triumph, I received an email from another commissary requested contact.  Though she also said no, she then welcomed me graciously and with open arms into the local business family and suggested I join my Chamber of Commerce, for which she would get me a great, reduced price.  And she would also pass my request to local business contacts she knew to find me that commissary space.  I don't know where this one will lead, and if it was a polite reply accompanying a rejection, I'll take it, nonetheless.  The hope of help and the promise of assistance in pushing through my wall and also growing my business are all I needed to stay on track and keep knocking on doors. 

I'll leave you with another of my cell phone's quips...

"Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not coming." 

Make it a great day!  And be sure to visit my Commissary page located under the Getting Started tab for a list of links that I found during my search.  You can look by state for local commercial kitchen rentals.  I hope the information helps another Italian Ice vendor launch their business.

Categories: Getting Started, Licenses-Permits-Insurance

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1 Comment

Reply linda cherepanov
1:32 PM on May 24, 2015 
i hitting the same problem in sullivan county ny
nobody wants to do this