Community. That’s the word that informs the philosophy behind Ghost Pocket Kitchen, a shared kitchen space that is about to open its doors to the area’s culinary creators who, thus far, do not have a commercial grade kitchen in which to make their visions a reality.
Community is a word that is liberally sprinkled throughout the conversation held at Ghost Pocket with founders Laura Shaunette and Geneva Shaunette of Back Pocket Creative, and Elena Levin, owner of Ghost Town Grocer and coffee shop.
And community is what the entrepreneurial trio seeks to create with their vision.
The kitchen, located at 757 Vance Drive near Telluride Tire’s former shop, was once the home of Alpine Infusions, a licensed kitchen that created cannabis-infused edibles sold at Alpine Wellness and its infused Ganjalas that were wholesaled to dispensaries across the state. Last fall, Alpine Wellness’ owners surrendered their kitchen license to focus on the retail and greenhouse aspects of the business. Their first phone call was to Geneva, to see if she would be interested in picking up the lease and purchasing everything within the space — stoves, ovens, mixers and other kitchen equipment. That, she said, was an easy “Yes.”
Because the Shaunettes and Levin were intimately familiar with the space — Laura spearheaded Alpine Infusions wholesale department, Levin was once Alpine’s kitchen manager and Geneva served as Alpine’s general manager — they knew exactly what they were getting into. And more, they knew their vision could be realized in what they say is an ideal space.
The vision is this: Provide commercial kitchen space to local entrepreneurs who have ideas, but no place to realize them because of Telluride’s limited physical opportunities. There just aren’t enough kitchens to go around. The ones in operation are often in no position to share them with a budding baker or candy maker, but at Ghost Pocket, kitchen time can be scheduled. And there, they hope, through the ability to shepherd a dream into reality, more locals will be able to stay.
“So many people are being squeezed out,” Geneva said. “This will be a safe place to test a concept.”
“The hope is that people will grow into their own spaces, but that this will be a pathway for a lot of people,” Levin added.
Not only does Ghost Pocket boast 12,000 square feet on its lower level, but upstairs is another 12,500 square feet that can be used for storage and prep areas, and has enough room for a shared office space. The team is currently bringing ceiling and flooring up to commercial kitchen compatible grade and they are very much into the sweat equity aspect of being business owners.
“We’re doing as much as we can ourselves,” Geneva said. “And we have great friends. It’s a community effort.”
The possibilities, the three agree, are unlimited.
Laura said she was inspired by experiencing similar communal “makers’ spaces” in New Orleans and Denver.
“These were places where talented makers needed a space to get going,” she said. “I feel like we should do something like that.”
She pointed out, that in addition to the nearby Two Rivers neighborhood, the Ilium valley area is about to be home to even more workers and their families with the upcoming construction of Telluride Ski Resort’s employee housing units adjoining Two Rivers.
“We want to be where the people are,” Laura said. “And looking ahead, maybe one day we’ll have block parties with food carts. We want this to be community-oriented.”
There’s that word again — community.
With Ghost Pocket Kitchen,the partners envision the space being a physical address where food deliveries can be made for small operators, for providing storage for Vicki’s Fresh Food Movement, so she can grow her business, for providing a nexus for vendors who could then collaborate on events, festival catering and even personnel, and for meeting a demand they know is there.
“This is not a new idea,” Levin said, “but the ethics we have behind it are special. We want to put money back into the community.”
Laura, Geneva and Elena are effusive in their appreciation for the level of support they’ve received. Their landlords, Telecam and Ryan Kusuno, they said have been encouraging and the contractors who’ve been working with them to get it up and running are “like part of the family,” Geneva said. County officials whose job it is to ensure the place is safe and up to state standards are excited, too, they said. And on top of all the enthusiasm for the concept, Ghost Pocket sponsored this season’s rec league hockey champions.
The way the kitchen will work, Geneva explained, is that users will book a time online and be able to determine which equipment, dates and stations are available — prep, oven, stove, packaging, etc. There will be membership levels, monthly rates and drop-in and hourly rates. So much is unknown, she said, until the first chef hits the mats.
“We can only guess how much people will be down here,” she said.
However the space grows, the Shaunettes and Levin know for sure that it will be a community.