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  • Writer's pictureIzzy Siebert

Meet ‘The Airbnb of Kitchens’: Discovering The Grove at Western Fair District

When you step into The Grove for the first time, you can tell it’s a space like no other. Uniquely ambitious and endlessly innovative, this Western Fair District facility has become a centre for food production in London, Ontario. Once planned to be demolished for a parking lot, this building at 900 King St has found an incredible new life. 

The Grove hosted a Food Symposium in May, featuring industry speakers and a facility tour.

The Grove is now home to iconic local businesses like The Fritter Shop. Their tasty pastries can be found at The Market at Western Fair District, among other locations. With their new machines, The Fritter Shop will soon produce tens of thousands of fritters a day at The Grove! This marks a massive expansion from what started as a tiny operation at farmers markets in 2016.

Small business stories are exactly what The Grove fosters. Take Forrat’s—famed for their delicious, high-quality chocolate. Each piece is made at The Grove using state-of-the-art equipment. Another rising star is Afro Bites Canada. The founder, Dolly, creates pastries ‘like Jamaican patties… but better!’ Her goal of making authentic West African food accessible throughout Canada is made possible with The Grove as a home base. 

Then, there are companies like Peacasa Snacks, who appreciate the hands-on control The Grove offers. Their chickpea chips are healthier for the planet and your snack cupboard! When chip manufacturers said the recipe couldn’t be done, Peacasa opened their own production space at The Grove to make snacks the right way. Their products can now be found at 400+ stores in Canada. 

James Smith shows a new production space, which will be customized to suit the company that moves into it.

The Grove's crown jewel is its incubator space, known as ‘the Airbnb of food kitchens!’ Small businesses can rent kitchen space to increase production and grow a strong foundation, before ultimately expanding into an independent production facility. Tons of your London favourites currently work out of these kitchens, including The Hot Sauce Co., Haven’s Creamery, and Cafézia Coffee.

The Grove has four incubator kitchens boasting base equipment. Special equipment for specific uses, such as sauce making, frying, or baking, is available to meet niche needs. Space can be rented for only $25/hour, making this an exceptional option for small businesses looking to scale up production.

A peek inside one of The Grove's incubator kitchen spaces, available for rent.

Connected to the incubator kitchens and currently in progress is a brand-new packaging facility. Different machines will be available to safely and suitably package the wide range of products created in the incubator kitchens. The Grove also provides support with the process of getting into the kitchen, from insurance to food handling certificates.

Throughout the rest of the building, spaces are in varying states of construction. This ambitious facility is anticipated to be completed next spring. It will have room for around 20 companies making use of production spaces of varying sizes!

The new packaging room has yet to be completed. It connects directly to the incubator kitchens.

The Grove also hosts community organizations whose work aligns with their mission. Growing Chefs Ontario is a charity that provides food education and experiences to children. At The Grove, they offer cooking classes and make hot lunches for local schools.

Next door is Nathan’s Urban Farm, a room that looks straight out of science fiction. Twelve vertical towers boast hundreds of plants growing with no soil necessary. This urban farm is the result of a collaborative initiative known as The PATCH. The indoor location allows for year-round programming, including agricultural skills training for underserved groups.

Nathan's Urban Farm allows for year-round agriculture within The Grove.

If farming starts the cycle and food production comes next, The Wormery brings everything full circle. This massive squirmy farm is home to hundreds of thousands of worms. They turn organic waste from the Western Fair Market and Grove companies into fantastic fertilizer. Check out this page for Wormery videos! 

From start to finish, The Grove is doing great work to promote sustainability, innovation, and community in the agricultural and food industries. Old East Village has long been a hub for creative startups and The Grove carries this legacy to new heights. Find them on Facebook and Instagram to follow their journey!


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