Chriss Brown - A Jacksonville Original

Chef Chriss Brown at Beaver Street Commissary
Chef, Caterer, Commissary Manager, Food Biz Start-up Counselor, Food Truck Wrangler, Chriss Brown may well be the most hard-working person I know. 

As partner / manager at Jacksonville's 927 Events, Chriss sets the stage for special events, meetings, parties, receptions and more in a one-of-a-kind downtown venue. 

Catering is hard work. There's more to it than planning a menu, dressing out a few fancy tables, and making sure the buffet is stocked. Chriss manages to make it seem like a breeze, zipping through the day with a smile and can-do attitude that is more than a match for whatever challenge is on her plate.

After 15 years in the corporate world and a career journey that spanned several states, Chriss returned home to Jacksonville, Florida in 2000, working and saving to open her own restaurant. In 2003 she purchased Cafe Express, which she operated until she had built a large enough clientele to sell and move into catering full time. 

As she searched for a commissary kitchen in Jacksonville as a base of operations for her catering company, she wasn't finding any that met her needs. Sensing a business opportunity, she consulted her friend (now business partner) Paul, who offered her the opportunity of a lifetime. He owned a warehouse on Beaver Street that would make an ideal commissary space. The two decided to build a facility big enough so that start-ups and small business entrepreneurs who were looking for a licensed facility for their operations could join.

So Began the Beaver Street Commissary

Commissary members preparing for the day's work.
The 5,000-square-foot facility has three separate bays that can accommodate numerous businesses simultaneously prepping and cooking their food products. 

There is a master schedule to ensure space is available when needed, and individuals must clean up after themselves when their work is done, leaving the area ready for the next member. As the business grows, there is over 20,000 square feet of space available to accommodate future phases. 
Members have designated storage areas.
The commissary was recently inspected and approved as a base for vendors planning to sell their products into Whole Foods Market. In addition, the farm-to-table and buy local movements have spurred recent growth in food business start-ups, which has resulted in an increase in commissary memberships. 

After plenty of auctions, blood, sweat and tears, Chriss and Paul completed the build out and became licensed on July 28, 2009.  Five years later, the BSC may be the only stand-alone commissary of its kind in Northeast Florida. 

Currently there are 38 licensed member companies, holding various permits through the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (food), Agriculture, USDA, and FDA. Members pay a yearly membership fee and monthly fees for unlimited use of the facilities. Details are at the newly launched Beaverstreetcommissary.com 

One of the early commissary customers is Mark Patterson, President and Founder of Naturally Smart Foods. Mark worked at the commissary during the early phase of his healthy frozen dessert product start-up. 

Naturally Smart Frozen Desserts - try them at One Spark!
"Working with Chriss and the Beaver Street Commissary was an excellent opportunity as a start-up. BSC was nicely equipped, and allowed me to spend my money on growth and sales, versus building and supplying a facility from the ground up," Mark told us recently.

Current commissary clients include bakers, caterers, personal chefs, food truck operators, food business start-ups, vendors selling at art and farmers' markets, and a non-profit creating a line of food items. Chriss ensures that everyone maintains proper licences, and offers counsel based on her professional experience. 

Food Trucks at The Lot on Beaver Street
In 2012 Chriss got involved in promoting and assisting new food truck businesses in Jacksonville, and in 2013 she and Paul created a space solely for the use and convenience of food trucks.  

Located across from the commissary, "The Lot" features secure parking and surveillance for food trucks and vendor carts, with available individual electric, garbage, grease disposal and water set ups.  There are plans to expand offerings and plenty of space in which to grow.

Chriss confers with a food truck operator at The Lot.

Kudos to Chriss on finding her niche - making it easier for food businesses to start-up and thrive here on the First Coast! 

Jacksonville is experiencing a culinary renaissance, and Chef Chriss Brown is one of the many hardworking professionals making it happen every day. 

If you have a food related business on the First Coast, we want to hear from you. How did you get your start?  

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