Follow up: Troy Kitchen

Cory Nelson at Troy Kitchen 2017-June

Cory Nelson at Troy Kitchen

AOA is on summer break this week. So we'll have new follow-ups this week with people we've met and covered during the last year.

Troy Kitchen opened its doors in February of 2016 in the former Pioneer Food Coop space in downtown Troy. Entrepreneur Cory Nelson had a vision for a luxury food court and local food incubator in which small food businesses could get a start, learn the ropes, and move on to start their own restaurants. Admittedly, he had no experience in the food business when he began the venture. But Cory Nelson is an optimist.

So, now a year and a half after its opening, how are things going at Troy Kitchen? We stopped by to catch up on what's new and talk with Cory about the challenges and rewards of entrepreneurship, some of the lessons he's learned, and the plan for his next food court.

Catch us up on what's happened in your first year.

The incubator process is going great. K-Plate Korean BBQ -- we helped them get their own location around the corner. A few other restaurants are looking for their own locations and have come along really well. Every year we swap the restaurants out. You use the year to best learn about restaurants or learn about food. It's a food incubator -- it's to help people get their start in food business.

It's a swap out every year. You gotta keep it fresh. It's sad when they go but its exciting when another person comes in. You gotta give everybody a chance.

Businesses can only stay at Troy Kitchen for one year. Do you think you'll have enough start-up businesses to keep switching up the vendors?

Yes, I think there is no shortage of food entrepreneurs in the Capital Region.

What surprised you in this process?

The people. Sometimes I feel like, "Man, has anybody heard of this place?" But man, the amount of people that show up is absolutely amazing. I can't believe it. It feels like a dream. It feels fake. A couple of years ago we were just an idea in my mind. And now people are actually coming in. People actually showed up. I can't believe it.

Sometimes I feel like, "Man, has anybody heard of this place?" But man, the amount of people that show up is absolutely amazing. I can't believe it. It feels like a dream. It feels fake. A couple of years ago we were just an idea in my mind. And now people are actually coming in. People actually showed up. I can't believe it.

Sometimes I feel like I'm not a food court owner and I'm just the person that I was before and I just somehow did this, and one day somebody is going to find out and say the gig is up -- we know who you really are. I feel like I just tripped my way into this.

I said the same thing to a friend of mine who has a few restaurants around here and he feels the same way -- like some day people are just going to expose him for who he is. But I'm trying to explain to him you are who you are, and you are this person. But it doesn't feel like that. It still feels like I'm still some kid running around campus and trying to do entrepreneurial stuff. And maybe that's what keeps it going -- that you don't feel legit.

What have you learned from this experience?

I was feeling confident going in on opening day, I was still trying to get the space ready and people are lining up thirty minutes early. I got so nervous. Everything that could go wrong went wrong -- especially for the first few months. Everything that could break, broke.

No matter how much you try to prepare, you will never be ready. Anything you think is going to happen -- that times five is going to happen. You can't prepare for it. The only way is to go full force. You just gotta do it, and if you're excited about it you will figure out ways to keep on pushing.

Even for the strongest of strong, starting a business will bring you to your knees. So you really gotta enjoy it. You really gotta want to do it. Because if not, you'll say screw this, I'm not doing this.

For example -- you have family, friends, a social life -- it takes all of that away because you're so entrenched in it. But you have to believe in something and keep on pushing. It's always worth it at the end.

Sometimes I remind myself that when I used to have a job I wasn't that happy. I was doing what I had to do -- doing what they'd tell me to do. I learned from that -- it helped me to do this. This gave me life.

Also, understand the market that you are in and cater toward them. That is something I learned how to do better. I saw last year that more expensive foods was not exactly the best direction. So we brought the prices down. This is a $50,000 town in terms of annual income. People don't want to spend $10 on lunch. Here you can get chicken and waffles for $6 and a beer for $4. On one hand it's up to the vendors to do their best to use this incubator learn and go on, but it's also up to me to manage and make sure things are going right. The more expensive food is good and some people may love it, but each vendor now does about 200 to 280 plates a day because it's more affordable. So that's something that I learned -- picking these types of foods that can be sold at a lower price point.

Everything is about two things -- numbers and people satisfaction. If numbers are up and people are happy you're doing great. If you realize that more people could be happy or the numbers could be higher -- you have some work to do.

Everything is about two things -- numbers and people satisfaction. If numbers are up and people are happy you're doing great. If you realize that more people could be happy or the numbers could be higher -- you have some work to do.

You had to reorganize financially this year, that must have been tough on you. What did you learn from that process and how do you keep going after that?

I just take it all one day at a time. I'm a dreamer. A big one. So no matter what happens I always believe I will make it though and achieve the goal. It's not over until it's over. There is always another way, and restructuring was that way for me. The road to 100 food courts is still on, though. I know it won't be easy but I'm ready for the journey.

Is that the goal?

Absolutely. I'm going to have a hundred food courts in cities around the country.

If there were one frustration you could just wipe away so that it would make things
easier, what would it be?

I wouldn't say I'd like to wipe it away -- because every mistake I've made has helped me improve -- I've always been upfront about not having any restaurant/bar experience. Each bump in the road that made it difficult helped me improve.

But even the hardest part is not that bad because you still get to make your own decisions. There's nothing that is that bad. I remember having to go into the office everyday, and you're just killing yourself -- that was bad -- but with this you have an idea in your mind and you get to bring it from your mind to a reality. And no one is there to stop you from doing it, and you get to live out your dream. So even though sometimes it doesn't go according to plan and sometimes that is a little bit disappointing -- you got tomorrow, you got the next day.

Every day is a chance to make the dream. Every day I'm trying to do something a little bit better. Apple is a billion dollar corporationm but they have time so who am I, a little old food court to not be making changes.

What happened that really felt like a win for you?

It's not like a particular moment -- it's just like one pocket. Whenever I look around the space and I see people enjoying it. The times that feel like a win are when I look around and I get to go, "Man, I love this place." For those moments -- when I look around and it feels like everybody is having a good time -- that's a win. And then it's back to work.

What is next?

To open up a second one. It's between Rochester, Syracuse, and Schenectady. I love Schenectady. There is some great positive energy there. I think it has a great office crowd for lunch and a great entertainment side. I think it would fit in great over there. I definitely want to get it going by the end of the year.

This interview was lightly edited.
____

More follow-ups
+ Follow up: Sunhee's Farm and Kitchen
+ Follow up: Berben and Wolff's
+ Follow up: Farm on Peaceable Pastures
+ Follow up: Collar City Candle

Comments

I love the Troy Kitchen and I love Cory's positive attitude.

Corey, can you please create a website for Troy Kitchen that includes the menus of all the vendors? Patrons like to know what's available before making the trip to a restaurant. It's especially important for vegetarians, vegans, and people with other dietary needs who need to know whether there's something they can get. Many thanks for your consideration.

@Foodie - highly recommend that you follow the various restaurants on Instagram. They stay up-to-date on menu changes, daily specials, etc.

One of my favorite aspects of Troy Kitchen is Corey's dedication. I stop by maybe once a week and he both personally greets me in the restaurant and if we cross paths on the street. That extra effort means a lot to me. I also see Corey constantly hard at work and even wiping down tables.

He has a great variety of food and there are always filling, affordable options. Sometimes a $5 freshly-made gyro is just what you need. He is a great asset to the city of Troy.

Apologies for my misspelling of "Cory" above!

Troy Kitchen is the bomb.

My wife and I have gone a many times for dinner and always order a few things from different vendors. It's like Tapas but you don't spend $80 and still feel hungry!!

Cory is also a great guy, I have seen him in there a few times cleaning up and checking in on everyone. His attitude is top notch and he seems like someone who I would actually want to work for.

KEEP GOING CORY YOU ARE DOING IT RIGHT!

Cory, do you plan on hosting a vegan restaurant in the future? They are sorely needed in this area!


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