OAK CREEK, Wis. — A number of small business owners are calling for help after the community kitchen they shared to cook food for their businesses went up in flames last week - leaving them without the necessary tools and supplies to continue working.
A GoFundMe lists four small businesses that operate food trucks - El Famoso Jalisco’s, Rose Mob Grill, Ruby's Bagels, and Trouble Makers. The fire destroyed all their tools, equipment, ingredients and products. Now they are asking for donations to help them replace the lost items. The total amount of money raised will be divided squarely between the four businesses.
Ruby's Bagels, one of the food trucks, also took to social media to criticize what they described as a confusing process by the City of Milwaukee to allow them to cook out of the food truck. The owners said health department workers slapped a "Cease to Close" sticker on the truck because the correct paperwork was not filled out. They described the process:
"We recently got our food trailer and it took almost 2 months to get an inspector out, not to mention I filled out wrong applications because they could not tell me which applications I actually needed, from the 3 they made me re do, I only needed the 1.
To then now taking 2 business days since the fire to come out and put a Cease to Close sticker on my food trailer. Now while I am emotional because I lost everything I am absolutely angry at how fast they come to close something that is ALREADY CLOSED! Two business days vs two months to even get licensed.
This essentially means, even though some very kind folks offered us their kitchen that has the equipment we need, unfortunately in Milwaukee, we now may not be back in action for a bit. Because Licensing can take months.... "
Another business that used the community kitchen, Bleu Sheep Charcuterie, posted to social media to say that all their tools and supplies were lost in the fire. They said their greatest obstacles to resuming operations are finding a new commercial kitchen and recouping all the items they lost in the fire. The owners are asking for donations to their fundraiser this week only. They are selling $105 boards that serve 8-9 people. They hope to sell 15 of the boards. Learn more about the fundraiser by clicking here.
The day after a fire tore through the Common Cookhouse in Oak Creek, some of the small business owners who work there found comfort in each other.
"I always say that something is big for the making, especially for so many good people that worked here," Thomas Green told his peers.
The fire started around 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday. It spread so fast firefighters had to move their efforts outside of the building.
Arnie Gonzales was inside. He owns Trouble Maker's Cocina. Gonzales said the first fire alarm that went off was not inside the kitchen but in the front of the building.
"Heard crackling coming from the ceiling, when I looked up I started seeing smoke," Gonzales said. "We all got out of the building but it happens so fast.
Common Cookhouse served as a hub for many businesses by providing a kitchen, prep space, equipment, and storage. All of that was wiped out.
"I think I cried for six hours straight last night. I've never experienced anything like this in my life," said Katy Klinnert, owner of Katy's Cooking Tonight.
Klinnert and Thomas Green, who runs Mr. Green's BBQ, joined Common Cookhouse when it first launched during the pandemic.
"We're praying that we can pivot. It hurts right now with a lot of things that we lost, but the most important thing is we're still alive," Green said.
Green had to cancel jobs they booked and refund thousands of dollars since he lost the base kitchen to the fire.
While times are tough, so is this family of business owners.
"For us, it means that we have to be creative," Green said.
"We'll take it a day at a time," said Gonzales.
"We just have to keep going. Maybe that's the spirit of an entrepreneur," Klinnert said.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
Several of the businesses are fundraising to make up for the loss while not knowing when insurance will kick in and help. Visit the Common Cookhouse Facebook page to learn more about those impacted.