The Neverending Commissary Search

Posted by Lilly on July 9, 2012 at 2:05 PM Comments comments (0)

I've read a few sites that say, if you find a good commissary, do everything in your power to keep it.  Don't rock the boat, and be sure not to bite the hand that feeds you.  Still, no matter what cliche you follow, the need to find a new commissary may arise sooner than you'd like.  Just because you have found your commissary doesn't mean you should stop searching forever.  Keep your eyes and ears open for all new possibilities, always. 

I recently had the bottom fall out of my business when, after arranging negotiations and getting documents together, I finally submitted my plan review to my Health Department to get that glorious license.  I thought that enormous hurdle was behind me, until a week and a half later, my Health Department notified me of the revisions and additional information I would have to provide in order to wrap up the plan review and move on to my cart inspection.  All of the requests were very simple fixes, until I got to the commissary part.  Though I had provided my commissary's state license, my Health Department wanted their city license, too.  And when I visited my commissary people to get a copy of that, they couldn't find it.  Worse, since it's from the City of Philadelphia, they were in no way inclined to spend an entire work day muddling through bureaucratic red tape to get a duplicate license for me.  And just like that - POOF! - I no longer had a commissary.  But there are other reasons your commissary can disappear, many of which have nothing to do with you: 

  • They could decide to raise their fees, pushing you out of being able to afford them 
  • They can sell or go out of business
  • They can simply decide they don't want to have you taking up time and space in their facility
  • They may lose their own license
  • They may get a better offer from another vendor
  • ... and many other reasons

Without a commissary, you will lose your own license and have a major disruption in a business that is already riddled with seasonal time constraints. 

But I just want to share two things you can do to find a commissary.  The first, which I've mentioned before, is to place an ad on Craigslist.  Detail what you need, and how little space/time you would require since you're not a vendor who cooks anything.  You've got nothing to lose by having a free ad out there for restaurateurs and commissary owners to find.  And be sure to headline how you will be able to help them by providing easy income in the form of monthly rent.  From my own experience, I can attest that I was contacted by one person who needed kitchen sharers right in my homebase.  However, the rent was substantially high for a new business owner, so I passed.  Still, my ad helped, and I made a new contact in the street vendor industry.

Next, while in Craigslist, search "commissary" in the ALL FOR SALE area.  Here is what I found recently in my own Philly Craigslist listings (see below).  And yes, I found my new commissary, a great licensed, inspected, and approved operation located in Philly that has bays for 10 pushcart vendors, complete with sinks, freezers and even electric plugs in each bay for those who require refrigeration.  I paid for a six-month lease, which I probably won't use this year, but it will hold my spot for next year.  And knowing how difficult it is to find a commissary, this makes good business sense for me.  Best of luck!

Be sure to check out the Commissary page!