Local entrepreneur opens commissary kitchen space in historic building downtown to lower barrier of entry for culinary startups

Birmingham, Alabama, Tillman Levenson Annex, The Annex, culinary incubator, Haden Smith
Birmingham, Alabama, Tillman Levenson Annex, The Annex, culinary incubator, Haden Smith
Haden Smith at The Annex. Photo by Terri Robertson for Bham Now

When you start a food-based business, accessing or outfitting a commercial kitchen can be a big hurdle and huge expense. No one knows that better than local Birmingham entrepreneur Haden Smith. This July he founded The Annex to provide commercial kitchen space for rent to startup culinary businesses in the Tillman Levenson Annex building downtown.

Birmingham, Alabama, Tillman Levenson Annex, The Annex, culinary incubator, Haden Smith
The Annex commissary kitchen space is housed in the Tillman Levenson Annex. Photo by Terri Robertson for Bham Now
1960 Building Revitalized

Nearly 60 years ago, Birmingham’s Tillman Levenson Department Store needed a place to accept railroad deliveries and assemble items to be taken to the retail store. A wedge-shaped annex was built at 113 12th Street North across the street.

In 2018, the Tillman Levenson Annex is once again serving local business needs in downtown Birmingham—this time as a commissary kitchen space and culinary incubator.

The loading dock entrances from the 1960s are perfect for food trucks coming and going.

Birmingham, Alabama, Tillman Levenson Annex, The Annex, culinary incubator, Haden Smith
The Annex. Photo by Terri Robertson for Bham Now
The Annex Amenities

In operation now: one large, shared-use kitchen with 12 feet of hood space, which can accommodate six to 12 emerging or growing culinary businesses. 

Under construction: an additional 7,000 square feet of warehouse space will be redeveloped into kitchen space, including:

  • a second large, shared-use kitchen with 18 feet of hood space
  • two bakers kitchens
  • a large commercial dish area
Food Truck Dreams

Smith grew up in West Homewood, graduated from John Carroll Catholic High School and earned a degree in restaurant management from the University of Alabama. He worked on food trucks for Dreamcakes Bakery and Shindigs Catering & Food Truck in Birmingham before setting out to start his own.

Bayou Bros, a food truck concept by Smith and partner Ben Olivier, was a finalist at REV Birmingham’s Big Pitch competition in November 2017. While Bayou Bros didn’t win, the experience planted a seed in Smith.

“If we did have our own food truck, where would our truck call home?”—Haden Smith, founder,  The Annex

Soon Smith was working with REV Birmingham and Brad Wardlaw of Redmont Group on a new business plan: a commissary kitchen space to downtown Birmingham. The Annex was born.

Birmingham, Alabama, Tillman Levenson Annex, The Annex, culinary incubator, Haden Smith
Tillman Levenson Annex. Photo by Terri Robertson for Bham Now

“We witnessed firsthand working on food trucks that there is not enough commissary kitchen space in the Birmingham area.

“Spaces like The Annex are important to have available to offer small food businesses a lower barrier of entry to prove their concept before getting tied up in a serious commercial lease.”—Haden Smith

The Annex will offer commercial kitchen space for rent, event space for pop-up dinners and a food truck incubation program. 

Find The Annex at 113 12th Street North in downtown Birmingham, near Faith Skate Supply and across the street from Pack Health. For more information, visit theannexbham.com.