Local entrepreneur Haden Smith is bringing long-needed commissary kitchen space to downtown Birmingham. The Annex soft-opened July 9 in the Tillman Levenson Annex building at 113 12th Street North and will operate while additional kitchen space is being developed. The Annex will offer commercial kitchen space for rent, event space for pop-up dinners, and a food truck incubation program.
The Annex has one shared-use kitchen in operation now, which will accommodate six to 12 emerging or growing culinary businesses by the end of the summer. Smith is developing more than 7,000 square feet of warehouse into an additional larger shared-use kitchen plus two private kitchens. Applications are being accepted now for these spaces, which are expected to be completed by the end of 2018.
“I am excited we are able to bring this concept to Birmingham’s Innovation District,” Smith said. “We witnessed first-hand working on food trucks that there is not enough commissary kitchen space in the Birmingham area. Spaces like The Annex are important to have available to offer small food businesses a lower barrier of entry to prove their concept before getting tied up in a serious commercial lease.”
Smith began his journey into the Birmingham food truck scene as a finalist at REV Birmingham’s Big Pitch competition in November 2017. Although he and Bayou Bros food truck partner Ben Olivier did not win, they learned a great deal and were left asking a question that would ultimately lead Smith to The Annex: “If we did have our own food truck, where would our truck call home?”
After recognizing the overwhelming need for a commissary kitchen in Birmingham’s city center, Smith worked with REV and Brad Wardlaw of Redmont Group to create and implement a business plan for The Annex that will lower the barrier of entry for local food businesses to break through and achieve their entrepreneurial goals.
Smith grew up in the Birmingham area, graduating from John Carroll Catholic High School then earning his bachelor’s in Restaurant Management from The University of Alabama. After gaining experience in beverage management, he also worked for Dreamcakes Bakery and Shindigs Catering & Food Truck.
The wedge-shaped Annex building was built in 1960 as a railroad annex building for the Tillman Levenson Department Store, whose painted sign can be seen on the Annex’s brick from Interstate 65. The staff there would accept railroad deliveries and assemble items to be taken to the retail store across the street.