A Chicago-based vegan food producer and restaurant has announced plans to relocate operations to Huntington County. Kitchen 17 says it will invest more than $1 million to acquire and renovate the historic Herald -Press building in downtown Huntington and create up to 64 jobs by the end of 2024.
The company was founded in 2013 by sisters Jennie and Lorry Plasterer, who are natives of Huntington. The Kitchen 17 restaurant in Chicago specializes in vegan pizzas and comfort food. Jennie Plasterer says she pivoted the company during the pandemic by turning the restaurant into a full-fledged production facility.
The company says the 25,000-square-foot building will house its headquarters, as well as food production, packaging and distribution operations. The building will include a prep kitchen, retail tasting room, urban rooftop farming, and restaurant event space, as well as a photo and video production studio for its marketing team.
“This is home. We went to big cities for different opportunities and had a great time doing so,” Jennie Plasterer said. “When the pandemic hit, not only did we find an opportunity to restructure our lives and our businesses, but at the same time, expansion became necessary, and we couldn’t think of a better place than Huntington. I’ve gotten to fully partner with my sister and my husband, in my hometown, while putting in the first plant-based restaurant here. It’s a very special moment for us.”
The company says the Kitchen 17 restaurant in Chicago will remain in business as production operations move to Huntington. The company employs 20 in Illinois and plans to begin hiring this summer for a variety of positions in Huntington.
“We’re proud and excited to welcome Kitchen 17 and Smiley Face Media to Huntington,” said Huntington Mayor Richard Strick. “Their ambition, creativity and follow-through will add to the talent mix Huntington has been cultivating, and we are eager to see what new opportunities arise as the project moves forward.”
The Indiana Economic Development Corp. has offered Kitchen 17 up to $565,000 in conditional tax credits, which the company will not be eligible to claim until Hoosier workers are hired for the new jobs. The city of Huntington has approved additional incentives as well.