New Food Incubator Location Gives Program More Room to Grow

By Eric Heinz

Comal Heritage Food Incubator has opened in its new location in the RiNo Art Park, which will help prospective culinary professionals begin and grow their businesses.

The food incubator has programs for people, primarily those who are immigrants, to learn how to establish a restaurant or catering business with recipes that are primarily known to their respective cultures.

The new RiNo location, 1950 35th St., is about 2,600 square feet of space and includes the kitchen and pantry, a commissary and a lobby, which gives Comal more space to serve people compared to its previous location in the Taxi campus, just on the other side of the South Platte River.

Comal is one of the programs under the umbrella of Focus Points Family Resource Center, a nonprofit organization that is headquartered in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood.

“We have women who have started brick-and- mortar (businesses),” said Jules Kelty, executive director of Focus Points. “We have many women who … chose to do catering. We mainly work with immigrant and refugee women, and so we’re very cognizant that their life goals (vary), and we want to meet them where they’re at.”

Photo of inside of Comal Heritage Food Incubator
The commissary in the new Comal Heritage Food Incubator location in the RiNo Art Park gives the program more room to serve customers. Photo by Eric Heinz

Kelty said participants have several ways they can utilize the program. Comal planned to graduate its latest class of participants, who go through 18 to 24 months of training, in late September.

The move out of the Taxi location, Kelty said, was to establish more space for people to sit down and enjoy the meals purchased from the program’s participants.

“The new larger location allows us to create incredible guest experiences and most importantly, provides us with more room and opportunities to support our program participants while they develop their skills and grow their businesses,” Kelty said. “Additionally, the commissary space allows us to offer opportunities for local small businesses in the GES area.”

Kelty said other businesses can contact Comal if they would like to rent the space.

Comal Heritage Food Incubator is open for breakfast from 8-10 a.m. and for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays. Huerta Urbana’s farmers market continues 2-6 p.m. on Fridays at the Focus Points Family Resource Center at 2501 E. 48th Ave.

At a recent grand opening, dozens of customers came to try some of the dishes prepared by Comal program participants.

Huerta Urbana is another program under the Focus Points organization, and it helps people learn how to grow their own food and provides education on farming. The program also aims to grow food that Comal participants can use for their culinary education.

Karen Bustillos, the lead specialist with Huerta Urbana, said Comal participants earn a stipend while training.

“They’re able to take some money home and invest that money for their future business,” Bustillos said.

An example of food served during the recent grand opening of Comal Heritage Food Incubator. Photo by Eric Heinz

Dishes that are currently served for breakfast and lunch feature cuisine from various regions of Mexico, El Salvador and Venezuela.

According to the organization, Comal began in 2016 with a group of Mexican women living in Denver who wanted to create a program that provided restaurant-industry skills. In 2021, Comal was named one of The New York Times’ “50 Best Restaurants in America.”

Since it began, the program has helped dozens of recent immigrants and refugees from Ethiopia, Syria, Venezuela, El Salvador, Mexico and more.

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