Hendricks Co. co-op offers opportunities to aspiring artisans

CLAYTON, Ind. (WISH) — A new facility in Hendricks County is helping small businesses grow in an area where the opportunity may have not been there before.

The idea of a shared commercial kitchen is not new, especially in big cities. But in rural Hendricks County, there wasn’t an option until recently when a baker and jerky-maker teamed-up to open Westside Commercial Kitchen Co-op.

“I was a farmer that sold vegetables at the farmers market,” Robin Teasley said.

But eight years ago, a bad spring left Teasley baking to fill her table at the market.

“I did it out of our house and we had five ovens and we have five kids,” Teasley said.

Before long, her sweet sourdough bread pushed out the produce.

“It got to be overwhelming and I needed a kitchen,” Teasley said.

That’s where Michelle Twadell came in, a jerky maker whose business is anything but drying up.

“All we’ve done is grow,” Twadell said.

Now, Indiana Craft Jerky and Teasley’s business, Grandma’s Oven, share Westside Commercial Kitchen. It’s located in Clayton, which is just west of Plainfield in Hendricks County.

“Then we started adding more people,” Twadell said.

Teasley said the kitchen bridges a gap for those with small businesses that are outgrowing their home, but aren’t ready to open a store front.

“This is the middle step ground, that we didn’t think we’d ever be able to do,” Teasley said.

And with several small businesses all supporting each other, the women said it’s a recipe for success.

“They may only come in here twice a month and are here four hours doing what they need to do to prep, but they can put their stuff at Marsh in the local section,” Twadell said.

Those in the co-op are now selling their items not only at farmers markets, but local stores, festivals, at special events like weddings, and Twadell is even shipping her jerky off to a Chicago hotel as a specialty item.

“It gives us the stepping stone to go into a full-fledged bakery if we decide to in the future because we can save the money and build the business,” Teasley said.