Mary Helen Montgomery
There’s a new space in Chattanooga for innovators in the food and beverage industry to experiment with their products and scale their business. The new concept, Proof, will open March 13 on MLK Blvd., in what was formerly Two Sons Kitchen and Douglas Heights Bakery.
Proof will bring a unique asset to Chattanooga — a space that combines a classroom setting with a shared commercial kitchen and an operational restaurant. The aim is to create an environment where consumer goods startups, as well up and coming chefs, can develop their businesses in a collaborative community. There will be a special focus on attracting talent from backgrounds that are underrepresented in the industry.
Proof is the brainchild of Mia Littlejohn and Mike Robinson, who have many years of combined experience in corporate brand management and the food and beverage industry.
For the last two years, Mia and Mike have run Co.Lab’s Consumer Goods Accelerator. “Proof is a natural extension of that classroom program,” Mia says.
“We’re excited to see the efforts to support entrepreneurs in the food and beverage industry taken to the next level,” says Co.Lab Program Manager Tim Moore. “Partnering with Proof on future Consumer Goods Accelerator programs will help us have an even greater impact on entrepreneurs in the region.”
The Consumer Goods Accelerator program helps early stage food and beverage companies take their businesses to the next level. Mia says accelerator participants have often given the same feedback: “The program is great, but we need more hands-on help.” Proof is meant to provide that extra help that will truly help businesses get off the ground.
Mia and Mike have already signed on their first tenants for the shared commercial kitchen, including LoLoBars (CBD-infused edibles), Poppytons Patisserie (a farm to food truck), High Haute Foods (catering), Dr. Thacher’s (cocktail syrups), and Doc and Artie’s (sauces and spices). Proof is also welcoming innovative products of legacy companies in the industry involved, including Double Cola’s beer brand, Brewski.
“We’re trying to create relationships between the people who are new and veterans,” says Mike. “Getting them involved at the startup level is key.”
The restaurant at Proof, which will be open to the public, will feature food from an up and coming chef that rotates seasonally. The first chef lined up is Chris Greer, known as Lil Oso, who focuses on “innovative food” that draws from Italian, Hispanic, and Asian cuisine. The bar at the restaurant will feature craft cocktails, wine, and beer, managed by Kaleena Goldsworthy of The Bitter Bottle.
At its heart, Proof is a space for learning and growing, through hands-on work, as well as in a more traditional classroom setting. In addition to the Consumer Goods Accelerator courses, Proof plans to offer courses for anyone in the food and beverage industry. Topics covered may include mental health, food safety, hospitality, manager training, and more.
The grand opening weekend of Proof will be March 13 – 14, from 4pm to midnight.
The Consumer Goods Accelerator program, which Mia and Mike run in partnership with Co.Lab is currently accepting applications. **More information here. **