From the curb, the construction at A.C. Automotive seems routine enough. Dangling electrical cords and freshly painted walls hint at the Philly Boys Cheesesteaks counter John Schofield is opening there. But in the back, behind Schofield’s auto shop and that sandwich stand, a rather epic project is taking shape. Schofield is building what just may be the largest kitchen commissary in the city.
Schofield has owned the building at 3201 Fourth Avenue South for 18 years. A chunk of it he dedicated to A.C. Automotive, another chunk to storage of old cars and other rubbish. When Schofield had the health department inspect the cheesesteak trailer he parks out front, the official dropped a goldmine idea: Turn the storage room into a commissary.
What, exactly, is a commissary you ask? It’s where bakers, caterers, and food truckers prep and store large batches of food. Since December construction crews have been converting the 3,500-square-foot space into a mega-kitchen that soon will hum with activity 24/7. To Schofield’s knowledge it’s the biggest of its kind here in Seattle—and it couldn’t arrive at a better time. As the tide of food trucks continues to rise, operators will need to find a certified commissary, per city regulations. That’s no easy task. Existing options are already overburdened. Schofield talks of a certain commissary operator so flush with inquiries he’s had to (one guesses reluctantly) send them Schofield’s way.
"I’ve got people lining up," says Schofield. He’s heard from 70 interested parties, and he’s already signed one anchor tenant: World Wraps, which inked a three-year lease.
If the size is notable, so are the digs. The commissary will feature top-of-the-line equipment, like a dishwasher that works its magic in three minutes. And the layout should prove more streamlined than other kitchens out there—no more taking goods out of the oven and having to unload them feet away. Also clutch: Schofield is transforming a back lot into an area where up to 15 truckers can park and plug. So when the food is good to go, so is their freshly charged four-wheeler.
Schofield expects all this to be up and running in early June. Same with the takeout counter, which he’s painting the color of Cheese Whiz—just like the trailer that started it all.