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August 1, 2018

Brooklyn-based owner pulls the plug on popular Portland food lab

Photo / Mainebiz archives
Photo / Mainebiz archives
Neil Spillane, left, and Eric Holstein, co-founders of Fork Food Lab in Portland, shown a year ago when their company was acquired by a Brooklyn-based culinary incubator. That company now plans to close Fork Food Lab in September.

Fork Food Lab in Portland — a two-year-old company that was among the successes cited in the Greater Portland's redesignation as one of the country's Manufacturing Communities for Food Production — will close in September.

The Bangor Daily News reported that Fork's parent company, Pilotworks, announced it is closing the company on Sept. 30 and evicting its members. Pilotworks CEO Zach Ware told the BDN that the West Bayside test kitchen and food business incubator was closing because "operating sustainably was not feasible long term."

Brooklyn-based Pilotworks, formerly named Foodworks, acquired Fork in June 2017 from Fork's founders, Neil Spillane and Eric Holstein.

In a FAQ page on its website, Pilotworks stated all members' storage and equipment would need to be removed from Fork's site by Oct. 5.

"Please know we've made every possible attempt to identify potential outcomes to keep this location open," Pilotworks stated. "While this is not the outcome that anyone had hoped for, we remain committed to working collectively to wind down operations as smoothly as possible to minimize the impact to our customers, vendors and the communities we serve."

Pilotworks stated on its website that "our spaces in Chicago, Dallas and the New York area remain open and we are continuing to look to expand Pilotworks into other markets."

Fork, Maine's first privately-owned, membership-based commercial kitchen incubator, opened September 2016, after purchasing and renovating a 6,000-square-foot building in West Bayside. The lab provided enough space for 45 food businesses and provides state-of-the-art equipment, direct feedback from customers through an adjacent tasting room, as well as marketing and legal advice.

According to Fork's website, current membership includes a variety of food producers like North Spore Mushroom Co., Renee By The Bay pies, The Marshmallow Cart and Falafel Mafia.

Pilotworks provides on-demand commercial kitchen spaces — as well as a community of industry experts and mentors.

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