Written by Eliza LaJoie
Tammy Tedesco is in a growth mindset. From hungry schoolchildren to her revitalized Detroit neighborhood, Tedesco has spent much of the past two decades helping both people and places grow. The success of her catering business, Edibles Rex, landed it on the Inner City 100 list in 2014 and 2013, and Tedesco is now preparing for the next step in her own growth story: the major expansion of Edibles Rex into a second facility, which she hopes will serve as a hub for food-focused innovators in the Detroit area.
Since its founding 23 years ago, the company has found particular success supplying creative, nourishing meals for students in the Detroit metro area. Laying to rest the stereotype of soggy baked beans slopped onto lunch trays, Edibles helps schools meet the USDA’s weekly legume requirement more creatively, mixing beans into spicy chili, white-bean mayonnaise, and potato salad.
With growing demand from school lunchrooms as well as more traditional corporate catering customers, Tedesco’s company now serves about 15,000 meals per day, most of them in the Detroit metro area. Demand has begun to exceed the capacity of the current Edibles facility, in Detroit’s Eastern Market neighborhood.
With this in mind, Tedesco has entered the design phase on a new facility, also in Eastern Market. Approximately a third of the 64,000 square-foot space will be dedicated to Edibles operations. An auxiliary kitchen will allow Tedesco’s team to produce kid-friendly recipes on a larger scale, reaching hungry young scholars throughout the Midwest and beyond. She plans to call the space Good Food Village.
The expansion will allow Edibles to continue hiring local employees, in many cases parents of the students eating that spicy chili at lunch.
“Not only are we feeding children of the community, but we are also employing their families,” Tedesco noted, expressing pride that Edibles is able to help provide both jobs and food security in a city plagued by unemployment. As ICIC wrote in 2014, those jobs also provide professional development benefits. After the expansion, she expects to add six more.
But the new space will not only impact employees and customers of Edibles Rex. Tedesco envisions the other two-thirds of Good Food Village as a co-working space and hub for other Detroit-based culinary innovators looking to scale their operations. The facility will feature 24-hour office and kitchen space for participating companies. Her vision is to have up to 25 companies using the space at a time, thriving for one to two years in a collegial, creative environment before expanding into their own facilities.
Edibles Rex will break ground on Good Food Village as early as Fall 2015. In the meantime, Tedesco has applied again for the 2015 Inner City 100, which she sees as an opportunity to network and learn with creative minds from around the country.
She recalled how last year’s conference led to unexpected connections. “I met a young man starting a micro-fund for small businesses [led by people] of Hispanic descent. We exchanged ideas of non-financial resources that are available to all small business that many are not aware of.”
It was at the Inner City 100 Conference that she first met one of her Detroit-based school partners in person, and it also provided opportunities to brainstorm with people of different perspectives.
“I love the education and networking opportunities. It gives me a chance to discuss my project and learn from others who invested in property for their growth,” she noted.
This year’s Inner City 100 Conference and Awards will be held October 7 in Boston. For more information on the event or on nominations for next year’s awards, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.