Kathy Montgomery

After losing everything they owned in the 2020 Creek Fire in Central California, Melody Frazer (pictured) and her husband traveled all over the West, looking for a place to land. “We took a whole year and used every vacation to drive, drive, drive,” she says. “We went to Idaho. We went to Washington. We went to Utah. And when we came to Prescott, that was it. We knew this was the place. It felt like home. And after all that travel, it was the first place that did.”

The Frazers wanted a single-story house on a little land. And it had to have a place for Melody to blend her commercial spices. The last part didn’t work out, and Frazer wasn’t sure how to keep her business going until she found NoCo Community Kitchen in Prescott. 

The first endeavor of its kind in Yavapai County, NoCo is the latest project of the Prescott Farmers Market, or PFM. Named for its historic location on North Cortez Street, the project started with the realization that the PFM’s vendors needed a reliable place to safely prepare foods to sell at the market. It grew with the discovery of a broader need: The facility opened last fall to give local food producers and community groups access to an affordable, professional-grade kitchen. 

PFM Executive Director Kathleen Yetman envisioned NoCo as a co-working space where community organizations could prepare food for events or conduct cooking classes. More importantly, it could give small businesses a place to operate without having to make a crushing capital investment. To help these businesses thrive, the PFM also created a business incubator program. And Frazer was just the kind of entrepreneur Yetman thought NoCo could help. 

Frazer established Kay’s Best Garlicky Seasoning in the late 1980s. The name honors her mother, whose middle name was Kay — as is Frazer’s, her daughter’s and her granddaughter’s. “My mom has been gone for many years,” Frazer says. “She always wanted to have her own catering business. It never worked out.”

Initially, Frazer blended Kay’s Best seasoning for friends and family who, she recalls, would come for dinner and ask, “What did you put on these potatoes? What’s on this meat? Can you make some for me?’’ The business grew from there. “It was really a hobby business for many, many years,” Frazer says. “I wasn’t the business student looking for an idea. I was the home cook with a great idea, wondering: How in the world do
I get this out on the market?

In California, Frazer initially secured space in a local commercial kitchen; later, she used the facilities in the school where she worked. She came to Arizona with the idea of building her own commercial kitchen. “We were going to remodel a nicely built barn, and it was just cost-prohibitive,” she says. “But I didn’t know that [at first]. It took me a long time just to get all those answers.”

She wasn’t sure what she was going to do. To sell spices wholesale across state lines, Frazer is required by law to be registered with the federal Food and Drug Administration and work out of an FDA-approved facility. “I was really in a holding pattern,” she says. “The way a lot of businesses are able to access a commissary kitchen is through restaurants. They’re only going to accommodate so many, and you really have to know somebody.” 

Frazer looked for a commissary kitchen in Prescott but found nothing. Then she came across NoCo, which looked like it was close to being finished. She put in her application and, despite having been in business for decades, enrolled in the four-week incubator program. 

The training was eye-opening. Frazer learned she wasn’t charging enough because she wasn’t taking her time into account. And after creating a spreadsheet with all of her suppliers and costs, she realized she needed to find new suppliers. She found a wholesaler in Cottonwood that was less expensive. And it was local. 

That was a goal of the kitchen. The PFM’s mission is to support and expand local agriculture, cultivate a healthy community and increase access to affordable local food. The hope is that the kitchen will foster connections between local businesses and local farmers and ranchers. In terms of cultivating a healthy community, Yetman says, people think about vegetables and exercise, “but really, what we’re looking at is social [and] economic health.” NoCo’s kitchen manager, Melinda Hambrick, deserves immense credit for getting the facility up and running, Yetman adds.

For Frazer, becoming part of a network of local food entrepreneurs has been a benefit. NoCo serves a diverse and growing group of businesses that includes a food truck, a caterer and a cooking academy. “It’s fun when others are in there and you feel that community,” Frazer says. 

One day, there were six or seven chefs from Yavapai College making cookies for an upcoming event when Frazer was using the kitchen. One of them needed a spice for a recipe, and Frazer was glad to help. “That was a fun day,” she says. She didn’t want anything in return — but in hindsight, she says, “I should have asked for a cookie.”

PRESCOTT  NoCo Community Kitchen, 216 N. Cortez Street,