Kommercial Kitchens bringing new concept to Beaumont
Dirt has turned for a long-awaited Kommercial Kitchens retail center and restaurant planned along a heavily traveled stretch of Interstate 10.
Operating manager Terry Woodard is hoping to make even more progress at the former Ridgewood Retirement Home site, just east of 11th Street. Thousands of motorists daily pass by the cleared land, marked by a weather-worn sign promoting Kommercial Kitchens.
“If it stays dry, we can pour a slab in a couple of weeks,” Woodard said this week. “We wanted to start three weeks ago, but we’ve had so much rain.”
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Rain is the contractor’s bane and Southeast Texas in in late August and early September 2017 got a year’s worth, thanks to Tropical Storm Harvey.
In Rose City, where Kommercial Kitchens was located, flooding destroyed its buildings, trucks, fork lifts, desks, filing cabinets and inventory.
The restaurant and commercial-kitchen supply and installation business was ruined by Harvey. It moved to a temporary location in Vidor two weeks after Harvey and regained its footing.
“Our customers have been very loyal,” Woodard said.
Harvey just about wiped out Kommercial Kitchens in Rose City, he said. The building took 8 feet of water.
Woodard had no flood insurance because he wasn’t in a flood zone. He had inventory insurance, windstorm insurance and some business interruption insurance, but he said it wasn’t enough to replace everything that was lost.
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“We don’t have a clue how much Harvey cost us,” Woodard said. “We had a fabrication shop. It’s not running yet. It’s been 1½ years and we’re still trying to get it up and going.”
Moving to Vidor got the business going again by November 2017. But it wasn’t until the next March that Kommercial Kitchens was able to make deliveries, including to the more than 40 school districts within Region V, covering most of Southeast Texas.
“We have no clue how much business we lost,” Woodard said.
He kept many customers, however, and was able to pay employees as long as he could during the disruption, he said.
Woodard already had intended to build new in Beaumont on the abandoned Ridgewood property, 2520 Interstate 10 East. The city demolished the remnants of the retirement center after the New Jersey-based owner failed to pay taxes, leaving a 5-acre hole of scrub undergrowth.
“If everything goes well, we think we can be in by May,” Woodard said.
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Kommercial Kitchens plans a building for itself and a strip commercial center totaling about 44,000 square feet.
Mayor Becky Ames welcomed the news of pending construction at the site.
“Without a doubt, it’s a great location,” she said of the high-profile acreage along I-10. “Everyone is invited to build in Beaumont.”
Harvey presented a challenge for people and businesses, she said.
“We’re starting to see a big difference,” Ames said. “We’re expecting several groundbreakings in the next couple of weeks.”
For example, site preparation is under way for a new Exxon convenience store on Major Drive at Delaware. On the industrial side, not including major projects already begun, American Ethane will break ground on Gulf States Road on Monday, Ames said.
That is described as a “multibillion-dollar” ethane export project to export 10 million tons of ethane per year to China with estimated sales of $72 billion, Ames said.
A new commercial strip center at $2.5 million might not compare in economic power, but Kommercial Kitchen’s new site will improve perception of Beaumont as a business location, Ames said.
The new construction also will include a test kitchen to demonstrate the company’s products.
A new restaurant called Texas Ranch Restaurant will be built within the strip center and leased from Kommercial Kitchens. Woodard is the restaurant owner and hopes it could turn into a chain.
Back in December 2016, when Woodard first planned to move to Beaumont, the city had about 260 quick-serve and full-service restaurants, but those are not the biggest consumer of commercially made kitchens, Woodard said.
That would be school districts, he said. Two years ago, for example, Kommercial Kitchens had just finished a contract for equipment to allow the Pasadena ISD to serve 5,000 students in one hour.
Woodard said he plans to increase his work force from its current roster of about 20. Plus, he said, a restaurant also employs many people and supports other local businesses that provide consumer goods and services.
The city of Beaumont permit places the value of construction at $1.2 million. Woodard said the total investment could reach $2.5 million.
He said he arranged financing, and he and his bankers are making a solid bet that the new construction and expansive approach will pay off.
Dan Wallach is a freelance writer in Beaumont.