News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, November 9, 2023
Shortly after opening, Island Central Kitchen shuts down
Owner seeks new tenant for Main Street building

by Will Robinson

Less than a month after the transition from the Harbor Café to Island Central Kitchen, owner Max Katzenberg announced the “end of operations” under his ownership.

Katzenberg purchased the restaurant and the Tewksbury building in 2020. In early October 2023, Katzenberg announced the café would be closing to rebrand itself as the Island Central Kitchen.

In an October 17 interview, Katzenberg said Island Central Kitchen would primarily focus on partnerships with local non-profits.

The first venture was a collaboration with Healthy Island Project and the Mariners Soar! After School Program. Called “Hospitality 101,” Island students would go to the former café after school, learning the restaurant business from Island Central Kitchen staff.

According to Katzenberg, HIP funded the project, Island Central Kitchen provided kitchen space and technical expertise, and Mariners Soar! brought students.

On Friday, October 13, six students met with Katzenberg, chef Kate Conkin and manager Traci Billings for the first time. Two weeks later, the Island Central Kitchen opened its doors for a dinner service featuring a student-crafted menu. Dinner was paid for by donation and all proceeds went back into the program.

“Island Central Kitchen was an effort to directly impact local students in a positive manner, employ our key staff throughout the off season, be open throughout the off season for the community, and execute programming aligned with local non-profit partners that they could support financially,” Katzenberg said in a press release.

“Those partners,” he continued, “are unable to support the cost of the program, forcing it to stop.”

HIP Executive Director Rene Colson Hudson said, “The ambitious collaboration proved to be too complicated to pull off week to week.”

As for the Harbor Café, Katzenberg said the decades old diner closed for financial reasons. He called the business “impossible to right size” and said price increases “due to inflation and the use of fresh products” were “widely misunderstood and mischaracterized” by the community.

“It is time to accept the reality that the business will never break even being open 12 months [a year],” he said.

Katzenberg will seek a new tenant for the commercial space on the first floor.

“What business takes its place will have enormous shoes to fill in the heart of the community, but never say never,” he said.