The results are in: Warren’s Main Street School has been sold to the nonprofit Hope & Main to become a culinary business incubator. Approximately 450 Warren residents turned out for the vote, with 413 approving the sale and only 37 rejecting it. For Lisa Raiola, executive director and founder of Hope & Main, this news is both relieving and invigorating.
“I was just astonished,” says Raiola with a laugh. “I didn’t think so many people would come out the day before an election.” She adds, “It just goes to show that people are hungry for jobs and hungry for change – or maybe just hungry for food.”
The incubator project will transform Main Street School into a culinary business community that helps bring food professionals together, in addition to providing job training to inexperienced chefs. The completed incubator will feature four commercial kitchens, cold and dry storage, a food processing center, a business center, a venue for catered events, and a teaching kitchen with video capabilities where cooks can broadcast cooking shows. The incubator space will house 50 to 60 small businesses, what Raiola calls her “incubees.”
“I have around 150 people who’ve expressed interest in becoming an incubee,” she says. “We obviously can’t put 150 businesses in the incubator, but there’s that much interest.”
After finalizing all legal paperwork, Raiola predicts construction will begin in March, and then could take about nine months to get it up and running. “You look around Rhode Island and see vacant buildings and vacant schools, and it’s sad,” she says. “That’s one of the reasons I did this project: people reinvent themselves multiple times in a lifetime, so why not reinvent the school? It’s about re-purposing for the sake of economic development, and it’s about building community.”