Dayton dishes up artisan food center

Port of Columbia Manager Jennie Dickinson looks out the window of one of the processing spaces in the Blue Mountain Station artisan food center during a recent tour of the facility with Port commissioners.

Port of Columbia Manager Jennie Dickinson looks out the window of one of the processing spaces in the Blue Mountain Station artisan food center during a recent tour of the facility with Port commissioners. Photo by Rachel Alexander.

Advertisement

DAYTON — After six years of planning and months of construction, the Port of Columbia’s Blue Mountain Station is almost ready to open its doors.

Though finishing touches are still being put on the artisan food center, four food processing tenants — Mace Mead Works, Little Dipper Dairy, Big Kahuna Hot Sauce and Gypsy Girl Granola —are set to begin moving in next week.

In addition to the food processing businesses, a group of locals is hoping to put the center’s retail and commercial kitchen spaces to use as the home of Dayton’s fledgling food cooperative.

The seed for the Blue Mountain Station Co-Op was planted when Gypsy Girl Granola owner Suzi Tasker relocated to Dayton from the Tri-Cities. She had sold her granola to two co-ops in the Tri-Cities, and thought Dayton could benefit from a co-op selling locally produced food.

“There’s been a lot of people having the same idea. I just happened to be the one who said, ‘Hey, let’s do this,’” said Tasker.

Tasker began meeting with a group of about 10 other people in March to figure out what the co-op could offer. That group is functioning as the co-op’s formation board, and hopes to use the Blue Mountain Station retail space to sell products processed in the artisan food center, as well as around Dayton.

“We have so many talented people in our area who have a craft or a food item that they make,” said Tasker.

The center also includes a 1,100- square-foot commercial kitchen, which anyone may rent by the hour. With a co-op occupying the retail space, people could rent the kitchen to can vegetables, bake cookies or make other food products to sell next door.

“Really what the co-op does is offer a platform to new businesses,” said Tasker.

Tara Brenner, the owner of Numi Garden, has leased the garden space outside of the artisan food center to grow produce. She’s been involved with co-op planning and is looking forward to having more retail options as a producer.

“The co-op is a great way to sell my produce,” she said. “I think the whole idea will be a great contribution for the community. We can have more access to local food and more options.”

The co-op has tried this model on a small scale. Board members operated a table at the Dayton Farmer’s Market all summer, and people were encouraged to bring extra produce from their gardens to sell. Tasker said seeing the co-op model work on a small scale was exciting.

photo

Suzi Tasker packages granola for her business, Gypsy Girl Granola, in her current processing space at the Port's Industrial Park. Tasker will move her operations to Blue Mountain Station next week.

“It was really fun to see the life of the market begin to pulsate,” she said.

Many specifics still need to be worked out before the co-op can begin operations. Right now, board members are working on articles of incorporation and applying for nonprofit status. Once these details are in order, the group plans to open their meetings to the public around the beginning of January.

Eventually, board members hope to be able to offer educational classes at Blue Mountain Station, covering everything from cooking healthy meals to using social media for marketing.

Blue Mountain Station will have its local opening on Dec. 11 from 5-7 p.m., with a larger grand opening planned for the spring of 2014.

Tasker is excited to move Gypsy Girl Granola to its new home in the southwest corner of the food center.

“I love the idea of a group of normal, regular Joes coming together and doing something amazing,” she said. “That’s really what’s happening at Blue Mountain Station.”

Rachel Alexander can be reached at rachelalexander@wwub.com or 509-526-8363.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment

Click here to sign in