Jay’s Cafeteria getting new life as business incubator

The glory days of Jay’s Cafeteria are long over. Before it closed six years ago, it was a meeting place for politicians from across the city, families dining after church on Sunday, and those-in-the-know from all over who relished the choices on the long cafeteria bar–fried chicken, rib tips, fried fish, long-cooked greens, several varieties of cobbler. But the fact that the kitchen equipment, including ovens, counters and hood systems, is still in place makes the space at 1800 Muhammad Ali Blvd., ripe for a revival of use.

Community Ventures Corp., a nonprofit organization that provides small-business and home loans, purchased the property and now has plans to transform the space into a small-business incubator, a place where neighborhood residents can receive training and experience in the food industry, and new food service ideas can be worked out.

The large facility–11,000 square feet of divided kitchen space–has many possible uses, such as a bakery, food preparation and catering operations, or prep space for food trucks before rolling out to serve around the city. Businesses operating in the kitchens would share dish-washing space. There is even space for an isolation room for businesses that make kosher, vegan or gluten-free foods.

Funds for renovation of the space for these new ventures would come from the Community Foundation of Louisville, and Community Ventures is seeking other supporters for the project. The spaces would be rented to aspiring entrepreneurs to keep the space going, and Community Ventures also thinks that a a small coffee shop on the street front, and a f 1,000-square-foot event space will be available for rent.