DETROIT, MI – In downtown Plymouth, three sisters are making and selling raw, organic fruit and vegetable juices. In Detroit’s Eastern Market area, three-year-old Corridor Sausage recently moved into its first production facility. And in Ferndale, 30-year-old Alla Dihes is trying to put together a food truck she calls Plantain Republic.
These and many other Michiganders are part of a surge in food-based businesses, a trend that took root long ago, but has been gaining momentum in recent years. Detroit, in particular, has become a magnet for food entrepreneurs.
“We don’t see it slowing down,” said Dan Carmody, president of Eastern Market, which early next year plans to open a commercial kitchen that local businesses can rent.
At Eastern Market and local farmers markets, food entrepreneurs are showing up in larger numbers. Last year, they formed their own networking and support group in Detroit. And this summer, the TechTown business incubator at Wayne State University has been hosting a nine-week program specifically geared toward food entrepreneurs that attracted 22 participants.
First-time entrepreneur Dihes is discovering this the hard way. After losing her technical support job at Verizon Wireless at the end of June, Dihes is now working on plans to operate a food truck in Detroit that will sell fried plantains, a fruit similar to bananas, and pupusas, a type of stuffed corn tortilla that originated in El Salvador.
Dihes recently visited five different government offices in Detroit seeking licensing and other regulations that apply to food trucks. But she couldn’t find any substantive guidelines.
“The hardest thing is the complete lack of regulations that the City of Detroit can provide me with,” Dihes said. “I’m realizing the start-up cost is not as low as some information online tells you, but it’s still not discouraging me.”
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