A cook stands outside Waffle Love at SteelCraft in Long Beach, a food court made of recycled shipping containers.

A food court in shipping containers? It’s a reality thanks to the entrepreneurship of Los Angeles County residents Martin Howard and Kim Gros with the assistance of Mihaylo’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

Shipping containers from the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, now repurposed as restaurants at the new SteelCraft food court in the Bixby Knolls area of Long Beach, house eight food establishments ranging from burgers to dessert. Mihaylo’s SBDC fostered the development of the startup.

Sustainability is the watchword of today’s businesses and Mihaylo’s centers of excellence are leading the way in driving innovative concepts. Earlier this month, SteelCraft, an outdoor food court designed out of shipping containers, opened in Long Beach, promising to become the region’s latest dining destination, in the mold of the Anaheim Packing District.

Cal State Fullerton’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC), housed in Mihaylo College, played a pivotal role in the development of this business. In 2014, Long Beach resident Kim Gros, a human resources business partner manager for Coca-Cola Refreshments, visited the SBDC to discuss her concept of recycling a shipping container from the local port into an ice cream stand in downtown Long Beach. After consulting with the SBDC staff, Gros began to dream bigger. Her brainchild expanded to a network of shipping containers with diverse dining options, combined to create a hip outdoor food court in a celebration of Southern California culture and sustainable design.

Mihaylo’s SBDC assisted Gros with a loan, lease agreements for vendors, financial projections, and contacts with public officials so the dream could become a reality. “Kim had a winning attitude from the start,” says Mike Daniel ’99, director of Mihaylo SBDC and one of Gros’ consultants. “With a little guidance, she hit the ground running and didn’t stop. SteelCraft is a unique addition to the Bixby Knolls community and is sure to stimulate economic impact now and in years to come.”

Landowner Martin Howard (left) and entrepreneur Kim Gros (right) at the grand opening of SteelCraft in Long Beach in early 2017.

Martin Howard, who provided the land and contracting services to make SteelCraft a reality, stands next to Kim Gros at the grand opening on Feb. 2, 2017.

The business would rise from Martin Howard’s empty lot on the corner of Bixby Road and Long Beach Boulevard, while Howard’s construction company, Howard CDM, served as the contractor.

Today, the food court includes the following establishments:

  • Desano Pizza Bakery – traditional Neapolitan pizzas
  • Lovesome Chocolates – dark chocolate delights
  • Pig Pen Delicacy – a burger joint with a modern twist
  • Smog City Brewing – craft beers
  • Steelhead Coffee – gourmet coffee and pastries
  • Tajima Ramen – the first Japanese ramen shop to open in Long Beach
  • The Fresh Shave – a barbershop-themed stand with hand cranked ice and Hawaiian syrup
  • Waffle Love – authentic Belgian waffles
Patrons queue for coffee at Steelhead Coffee at SteelCraft in Long Beach, California.

There’s nothing like a good fresh cup of coffee to complement your meal. Enjoy your entrée, refreshments and dessert at SteelCraft.

For more on SteelCraft, visit them online. Want to make your visit to SteelCraft part of an afternoon or weekend excursion to Long Beach? Check out our earlier blog post on things to do in that city. For more on the SBDC, visit them online, call them at 657-278-3672 or stop by SGMH 4157.

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