SHARON, Pa. (WKBN) – If you’ve ever thought of owning your own food business but don’t have the funds to start it, a new facility in Sharon could help.

The Laurel Technical Institute’s Kitchen Incubator opened its doors to the public Wednesday with a special trick-or-treat event.

The food service industry took a massive hit during the COVID-19 pandemic: Across the country, thousands of restaurants closed their doors forever.

The Laurel Technical Institutes Kitchen Incubator has a goal to foster and launch at least 10 new food-centered businesses locally in the next five years. The city hopes it will bring an economic boost to local entrepreneurs.

“Sometimes, people think that food is just food. The reality is, now we have a place we can incubate full-blown restaurants. We can incubate food trucks, food concepts, food entrepreneurs,” said Sherris Moreira, director of downtown development for Sharon.

A commercial kitchen has a lot more capability than standard at-home kitchens. The city of Sharon designated about $45,000 of American Rescue Plan funds to go toward the facility, which will help with building culinary businesses in the area.

“They can pilot that concept here, have a soft opening. You can use our commissary kitchen if you’re someone who is an aspiring baker or someone who has a family recipe that they want package and sell,” said Doug Decker, executive vice president of the Laurel Technical Institute.

During evening hours and on weekends, bakers, chefs and the like can rent out space to hone their skills in two kitchens that are covered with a liability insurance policy — which the law requires in order to sell food to the public.

The institute houses a school restaurant — Gigi’s Table — as well as an annex kitchen attached to the restaurant. There’s also a main kitchen with three lines, a classroom banquet and meeting space, according to Decker.

One of the institutes’ chefs said if he’d had access to an incubator like this, he would have skipped the traditional college route and gone straight into culinary arts.

“How I got into this was my mom, baking cookies from home. Had we had an opportunity together to do something like this, probably would have started me on this career earlier than I got into it,” said JP O’Connor, culinary arts instructor.

To learn more about the program, visit the Laurel Technical Institute’s website.