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Exec Suite: Courtney and Jim Thompson, Farmingdale

Father and daughter Jim and Courtney Thompson, owners

Father and daughter Jim and Courtney Thompson, owners of Taste of Long Island, operate a commercial kitchen that they rent to food entrepreneurs. (Aug. 27, 2012) Credit: Amanda Voisard

Everyone may love your oatmeal-raisin scones, but starting a food business is nowhere near as simple as whipping up a batch. It means expensive equipment and complex legalities. For most potential small food businesses, it's too daunting to try.

Enter A Taste of Long Island, a shared-use commercial kitchen that opened in Farmingdale in July. Clients rent shifts in its shiny commercial kitchen. The company also offers business advice, and sells clients' products at its shop and its farmers market.

"We're a small business that's launching many, many small businesses," presidentt Jim Thompson said.

Thompson worked at IBM for more than 20 years, but dreamed of being an entrepreneur. The idea for the business came from his daughter, Courtney, a foodie with a master's degree in family and consumer sciences. They started with six clients and now have 24.

Father and daughter say the business is very much collaboration. "He has a tremendous amount of business operational expertise, I have the expertise in food and the regulations," Courtney Thompson said. "He goes for the big ideas, I ground them."

Who is your ideal client?

The ideal client has a high-quality product that they've been making for years, that their friends and family have been loving and encouraging them to go into business. If we think they can be successful, we build them a 'recipe' for how to start a food business.

It's said that most food businesses fail because they "don't get out of the kitchen." How do you help clients with the non-culinary aspects of succeeding?

One of our kitchen clients doesn't have a clue of how to run a business. His pasta sauce is so good that we've really taken him under our wing. We're helping him build it as a business -- how to label, how to get it into farmer's markets, marketing. . . . He's going out and he's knocking them dead.

Is there a sense of community among your clients?

Absolutely. We have three different clients who do gluten-free [foods], and on their own they've decided to work in tandem, to protect the integrity of their products. They pick up eggs for each other, they help each other with packaging.

What is your biggest challenge?

To get the message out that we're trying to do good for the community. We're here to make money but we want to give back to the local community.

What's ahead for A Taste of Long Island?

"We're planning on starting to sell A Taste of Long Island gift baskets in time for the holidays. In terms of expansion, I don't want a second location, but I would like a bigger location, here. When we are ready, an opportunity will present itself.

Corporate Snapshot

Name. Jim Thompson, president, A Taste of Long Island, Farmingdale

What it does. Provide commercial kitchen space, business advice and retail space for small local food businesses

Employees. Two

Roles they play. Everything from mopping floors to interviewing new clients

Revenue. $10,000 a month in July and August.

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