Brick by brick.

New opportunities are emerging in the Russell neighborhood starting with Chef Space.

On Tuesday June 30, Chef Space, Louisville’s first kitchen incubator, broke ground at the former site of Jay’s Cafeteria. The incubator project is being put forth by Community Ventures Corporation.

Kitchen incubators, also known as culinary incubators, are dedicated to fostering early-stage catering, retail and wholesale food businesses. Members are given the opportunity to jump start their food business with a fully-licensed and outfitted commercial kitchen, support services, advice and programs to help build their business. This kitchen incubator can foster up to 50 different members at a time with the goal of helping them grow and move out of the incubator. Food trucks, caterers and bakers are a few examples of the food entrepreneurs Chef Space will help. Chef Space will also house a retail outlet open to the public named Jay’s Café (in homage to the original building and structure) that will provide access to healthy food options and other products. Chef Space is modeled on the successful Union Kitchen Food Incubator in Washington, DC. (

Chef Space will provide 50 spaces are available for rental. Not only will these aspiring entrepreneurs have access to a commercial kitchen, not to mention education and even microloans to expand their businesses, but it also provides the neighborhood a retail space where West Louisville residents can buy fresh produce, but also products created by the entrepreneurs who rent the commercial spaces.

The spaces inside can also provide opportunity for pop-up restaurants which not only provide additional opportunities to access fresh food but also a training ground for these chefs, caterers and food truck owners to learn more with how to improve their businesses.

Chef Space’s goal are to do more than provide space for these entrepreneurs but to serve the community in a long-term, sustained way.

aspirecafe2Aspire Café, Deli and Fresh Market made its debut July 2 serving an African/Afro-Caribbean fusion fare.

Vitalis Lanshima, a former educator with Jefferson County Public Schools and a 2014 candidate for County Clerk is the new owner.

Considering these projects and Seed Capital-KYs plans for the biodigester/FoodPort, I will say that there are two West End locations that deliver some potential on identity-building. Opportunity, and identity-building centered around healthy food, locally sourced. I will get into this more in a bit.

A number of events have popped off this week that I have not been able to attend in person, but I yet and still keep my ear to the business pulse of West Louisville neighborhoods and I am thoroughly excited that it is going down. Sisters and brothers in this community have gotten serious and have started to make moves – it is my hope that I through Narrow The Gap can not only give you information to consider, this can be data you apply as more business continues to pop up and we build our communities brick by brick, space by space and block by block.

At the same time, I am really sensitive about the idea of making sure that I am providing you good people what you need to take what you have and to take your dreams and apply technology and examples that help you make these dreams so. There’s a danger about TALKING about how important technology is, but what good is that if I cannot provide you examples of what you can put in your businesses to make them even better? I am a believer in empowerment and I still have love in the numerous ways Black folk assert their cultural affirmation…I believe that knowing the history of African peoples around the world has its value and place, but that in and of itself can not and will not help Black people get out of their ruts.

Look. The Greenwood (Tulsa), Oklahoma massacre was a heinous moment in American history, and there are still many Black folk who neither know that Black Americans built an impressive business district that was utterly destroyed by white jealousy and leveraging racist hate and fear into brutal attacks. That said, knowing that doesn’t help Black people build business now! There’s a danger in wasting too much time in trying to get some Black people mad enough to get them to want to do for themselves – what you need to do are to provide resources to the people who are hungry and ready to work it into their vision and make it happen.

That’s why I made investments in 2013 and 2014 seeking new voices and means of growth – meeting new people, reading new books and new sites and new bloggers, becoming more active in social media – all in the name of expanding my mindspace and getting exposure to the marketplace of ideas.

When we protest for access, or against police brutality, or about aggressive letters from FOP presidents, we are relying upon leveraging political pressure to make something happen – at the end, it is begging and making pleas to institutions that are not entirely ours to do right by us and our communities…it is well time that we have a laser focus on building institutions that are ours and re-building our neighborhoods that have been broken, brick by brick.

Dream and Hustle: “The African-American Guide to Getting Started Right Now at Innovating and Creating Solutions”


Fresh Stops are community-focused and run enterprises where one can order fresh produce that you pick up on a weekly, biweekly or monthly basis. A Fresh Stop will often have cooking demonstrations and other activities that brings neighborhoods together around achieving healthy food and access to it for all communities.

Fresh Stops are open to anyone who wants the goods and are created, run and maintained by community leaders. Most Fresh Stops reserve 75% of their shares for individuals and families that identify as “low-income” according to the WIC eligibility guidelines. They operate on a sliding scale based on income. $6/share for mothers using WIC, $12/share for EBT/Food Stamp recipients or that qualifies with the income guidelines, and $25/share for everyone else.

The Russell Neighborhood Fresh Stop is literally across the street from the upcoming Chef Space building, being run from Christ Center Ministries at 1821 W. Muhammad Ali. The Russell Fresh Stop sources their produce from Barbour Farms, a Kentucky Black farmer located in Canmer, KY as well as twelve other African American farmers throughout the state.

This can be an exciting era of opportunity. As we desire to build a stronger, more economically independent community of Black-owned businesses, there should be a more active integration and relationship between Kentucky’s Black farmers, food entrepreneurs and the Chef Space co-op.


Let’s make moves to use these same Kentucky farmers sourcing vegetables/fruits to New Roots and get them working with our local Russell-area cafes, as well as other spots – Herring’s Soul Food Restaurants on Oak Street and 23rd and Market, Roof Top Grill on 34th and Broadway, etc. so that the farmers have more Louisville connections to source their goods.


Whether using Chef Space or other acquired building space to run pop-up restaurants serving a seasonal or specialized fare, or food trucks, opportunities abound for sharing and circular market resource-sharing in West Louisville. The very idea of the kitchen incubator is an example of renting not owning in urban spaces, which is a core concept from us with the Global Urban Collective.

Start modest and scale up. Much, much too often Black folk have been guilty of caring more about appearances as opposed to seeking their best strategy of being. Renting an office space where people rarely come to visit. Big mistake.

Think small and scale up. Working smart means stepping into a project “cheap and humble and low-level” as Ed Dunn from Dream and Hustle has written, and you expand by adding components as your demand grows. The thrill that comes through starting, building, making progress and rising is creating that scalable path that allows you to “grow with grace” from a low-cost solution to an enterprise-level solution.

As you’re thinking of creating solutions for the community and you want to wisely work in and use technology, here are some concepts and approaches to keep in mind, ones that can work especially well for Russell, but can be spread to other neighborhoods now and across this country and world:

Area Domination. 7-Eleven CEO Toshifumi Suzuki implemented global expansion through area domination. This is taking over a specific area and region and putting a presence on every corner so everyone within that are knows that the brand exists and becomes strong in that spot. This is the best high-density urban strategy for growth and billionaire-level achievement. Once that area is conquered, you move on to the next area. This is an effective corporate strategy from Walmart to Family Dollar to Krispy Kreme. Black folk will be well-served to establish area domination in our growth strategies to build a global brand one neighborhood at a time. Food entrepreneurs can do this in Russell, and it can be spread through other neighborhoods.

Circular Economics. Circular economics is the ability to share and use resources that can be recycled and reused instead of thrown away. You can do this through the use of sharing services like ride sharing and also period subscription models like this Laundromat model. Circular economics are disruptive and can be a positive alternative for working- to lower-middle class people on the come-up. Lessening the needs and expenses of everything from car ownership and maintenance to even furniture and electronics ownership is a worthy alternative way.

Narrow The Gap! has embraced the business models supported by our partners. The core areas essential for urban economic development, particularly in West Louisville, fall under the needs of financial, manufacturing, retailing and media.

We live in a technological age. We’re not moving toward it, this is 2015, we are in it…so let us implement it to win it. When you live in and have communities that have lower per-capita earnings among individuals and households, along with the reality that up to 98-99 percent of the income earned within our neighborhoods leave our communities to support and build others, you have to focus on strategies that will 1) be more efficient in finding ways to keeping more of our monies to be spent within our neighborhoods; and 2) providing people the tools (education and resources) to start entrepreneurial endeavors that will not only gather Black dollars within a given neighborhood in a given city, but the ability to learn and have transferable skills and develop transferable products that are marketable worldwide. The middle classes of China, India and even some countries in Africa are rising and will continue to do so for the next 40-50 years. It is within our interest to capture some of these markets as well.

When you’re dealing with communities like ours that are operating with deficits, you need disrupters to help you…narrow the gaps. Technology is one of those disrupters. We can use mobile technology as one disrupter and use our neighborhoods and the hundreds, thousands of empty lots that we have throughout West Louisville as the base to start off and make impact bypassing long-term leases and holding onto inventory that traps small businesses with loans and expenses stifling profits leading to failure.

Here are some business models that can work for us. Business models that allow us to develop our own narrative, where the perceptions about us are not dictated by those that do not love us.

IPTV. This is where the people can create a media library that can be streamed on demand or in real-time. A service can be created where the media is located in places like beauty salons or barbershops or even on a giant Jumbotron as a cornerstone of a community shopping district or available on set-top boxes like AppleTV, Roku or ChromeCast, smart TVs and mobile devices like Netflix. The service can be pay-per-view or subscription for revenue and will increase a market for media development of commercials for local Black businesses to advertise locally. It is a lot easier to create this technology in 2015 and there are many established digital carriers to spark economic development through mass media awareness.

Micro-Malls. Micro-malls support micro-entrepreneurs and this is a concept the people at Global Urban Collective discovered practiced in Hong Kong. This setup allows small entrepreneurs to setup cubes and sell goods/services from them not unlike a consignment shop. St. Stephen Baptist Church’s Family Life Center applies a similar concept monthly with its vendor showcase. This model can be kicked up to the next level for commercial interests so that we can use mobile devices to make purchases and follow up with action.

Empty Lot Transformation. We can transform empty lots in our neighborhoods into pop-up economic development environments. I have already noticed the chalkboard billboards put up through our West End hoods asking people what they wish to with a particular empty lot. Most of the time, people think flea market, but they’re not realizing that we have more portable infrastructures that can be brought to these empty lots. We can bring shipping containers to an empty lot and set up micro-retailing. We can bring artificial turf and solar power lights to these lots and convert to a sophisticated local market in these neighborhoods where serious righteous business can be made.

Pop-Up Shop. My people at Dream and Hustle have talked about creating rotating pop-up shops in the hood where new entrepreneurs start businesses on the short term and they’re moved in and out and keep the shops open for business instead of having closed down location. Pop-up shops are easier to do now with cloud-based point of sale services that use tablets for checkout and mobile store fixtures that can be quickly built up and torn down.

Self-Checkout Markets. This matters as Russell in the 18th Street corridor is working to establish a healthy-food and cooking-focused commercial identity. Instead of those coin-operated vending machines that serve terrible processed foods loaded with sodium and high-fructose corn syrup, a self-checkout market uses a mobile phone or kiosk for the self-checkout and can offer items like fresh fruits and vegetables and other items. This is the kind of thing that Amazon could have an interest in taking over or a Starbucks or a Whole Foods – a wise move would be starting such an enterprise and Whole Foods buys your idea for $100 million or more. With this element of market – find an opportunity and cash it out when the chance is right, you can move on to the great next project or use your newfound wealth for continued philanthropy or development in the hood or whatever.

Subscription-Based Laundromat. This could be a game changer, particularly in struggling-income communities. Instead of having a Laundromat that takes quarters, buy high-capacity personal or commercial appliances and use a membership service and subscription billing service in a high-density neighborhood like a gym club. A gym club can have 500 subscription members paying $35/month and have only 15 weight machines. You could have thousands of people in a neighborhood just pay $20/month and you can turn a Laundromat operation into a million dollar business that is expandable.

To learn more about these ideas and the technology that can help make them go, check out the source at Dream and Hustle.

As it stands, let’s support the brothers and sisters providing us good food and friendly services with our dollars so that we keep more of them in our community. Vitalis is committed to paying his employees a fairer wage so that we can have a healthier community. I would encourage him and any aspiring food entrepreneurs looking to acquire access at Chef Space when it opens in October, to establish relationships with our Black Kentucky farmers to source local produce and to develop and build networks that are mutually beneficial for all involved. I would encourage all of you aspiring entrepreneurs to reference and study up on the materials and resources that we share here at “Narrow The Gap!”, as well as our kin site Dream and Hustle. You’re welcome to use our code and resources. If you are curious, you are hungry, you’re ready for the come-up and you’re ready to see better West Louisville neighborhoods, join us at the Global Urban Collective on Facebook.