For nearly four years, Jonas Singer has been the face of Union Kitchen, the food incubator responsible for helping to launch hundreds of DC-made products. Early last month, however, he stepped away from his day-to-day role as co-CEO, although he is still an owner and board member in the business. Singer’s co-founder in Union Kitchen, Cullen Gilchrist, remains as CEO.
“It was certainly a mutual decision and mutual planning. As with everything, there’s always some drama involved when you have these big transitions… When there’s money and control and history involved, there’s always going to be some friction,” Singer says. He declined to elaborate on any “drama.” Gilchrist also declined to comment further about the resignation.
“We’d been planning on me transitioning out of being the day-to-day CEO for a while,” Singer says. Once Union Kitchen’s new $2.25 million, 16,00-square-foot Ivy City facility became financially and operationally stable this spring, “I started to think about what would come next because just running the same systems and operations every day was not the most appealing thing to me… I think the kitchen didn’t really need me as much.”
Union Kitchen opened its professional kitchen space in NoMa in 2012. Before that, few places existed where budding food entrepreneurs could get their start in DC without renting restaurant or bakery kitchens during off-hours or driving to commercial facilities in the suburbs. In its short lifespan, Union Kitchen has doubled its revenue year after year and grown to 45 employees, Gilchrist says. In addition to the second Ivy City facility that opened last year, the company now provides distribution, marketing, financial loans, and more. Union Kitchen also runs a market featuring its members’ products in Capitol Hill with second one on the way in Shaw.
For now, Singer is consulting on a few projects while he plots his next move. He’s working with Chix, which is opening a new location in Navy Yard, as well as Clean Decisions and Changing Perceptions, which both provide training and jobs for people coming out of prison. Longterm, Singer says he’s not sure if he’ll stay in the food world or not.
“Union Kitchen was the longest I’ve been at a job,” Singer says. “So, it’s time to see what’s next.”