Brandi Covington unpacked trays of broccoli, steak and scallion rice, setting up her store in a small kiosk on the first floor of the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s Building 77 — the same building where restaurant big shots such as Russ & Daughters are set to open in the coming months.
Her business, Cooking with Corey, may be small — for now — compared to the likes of Russ & Daughters, but Covington said she often sees a long line of patrons waiting for her lunch menu. She is one of several rotating food entrepreneurs who will share the Food Business Pathways’ Local Bites kiosk, which is offered to NYCHA residents and managed by the agency and the city’s Small Business Services.
"There’s times that we’ve had a line waiting for us, it’s great. And we have made plenty of profit over what we spent to prepare for the day," said Covington, of Flushing, who also caters at a college in Manhattan with the help of her business partner.
At the kiosk she offers one meat and two sides for $8, and sells about 40 meals each day.
"Most of the time we run out of food," she said, adding: "It’s an opportunity that I don’t think I would have been able to get without being attached to this company and this program. And so many people have been coming down, we’ve been making relationships with a lot of people that come here, they look for us for the food."
The Food Business Pathways program, which launched in 2015, offers potential entrepreneurs a 12-week course on how to launch a food-related business and helps with everything from licensing to connecting graduates with kitchen incubators. The kiosk, open Monday through Friday, will feature two different entrepreneur graduates every two months.
Right now Covington and Luquana McGriff, the founder of A Cake Baked in Brooklyn, alternate weeks. In December, two new entrepreneurs will take over.
"I’ve passed the Brooklyn Navy Yard about a million times. To be in here and selling my product is a once in a lifetime opportunity," McGriff said.
In the first week alone she landed catering contracts.
"To hear everyone’s feedback on my product has been great . . . and even some of the requests they’ve had," she added. People have asked for McGriff’s cake jars to be made in their favorite colors.
The Local Bites kiosk is supported by Start Small Think Big, a nonprofit that provides free legal, financial and marketing assistance to under-resourced entrepreneurs, according to Market Access Program Director Mabell Fernandez.
"Opportunities like this are really hard to come by, especially in a city like New York. Retail can be so expensive," she said. "It’s not only just about selling to people, it’s also about leveraging other connections."
Brooklyn Navy Yard President David Ehrenberg said Building 77, where about 40 businesses reside, opened about a year ago. About 9,000 people currently work in the Navy Yard.
"When we tried to put together the program and the food hall, we wanted to make sure that it really represented the full diversity of New York. We wanted it to feel really authentic to Brooklyn and what Brooklyn has been," he said. "As a mission-driven landlord, we really see our role as . . . an incubator for life. We want to keep you in the family and here in New York through your entire life cycle — that means for most companies starting very small, like the participants of the kiosk, and then growing over time."