From a young age, Hazleton native, Dominique Pane, knew she wanted to start her own business. Her dream? To share the art of food. From growing up making homemade cavatelli with her father to earning three degrees in hospitality, pastry management, and culinary arts, saying that food is her passion is an understatement.
While Pane originally tried to launch her business in 2020, COVID and other factors prevented her from doing so. Fortunately, through mutual connections, Pane learned about the Hazleton Kitchen Incubator, a commercially-licensed culinary facility within the Hayden Family Center for the Arts in Downtown Hazleton.
“A lot of people downtown had told me about the Kitchen Incubator,” Pane said. Then, upon learning about the opportunity, “everything just fell into place.” For Pane, the shared-use kitchen was the perfect opportunity to start working on her dream within a fully-licensed commercial kitchen at a low entry cost. She quickly jumped at the opportunity to join the Hazleton Kitchen Incubator and is now the incubator’s newest client with her business, Acacia Nay’s – a woman, LGBTQ+-owned business offering catering and ‘Grab-n-Go’ elevated comfort foods in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Pane’s family has been a crucial part of her opening Acacia Nay’s; she credits them as the backbone of her business and has even dedicated certain dishes to her loved ones: cavatelli for her father who helped ignite her love of cooking and ham and cheddar after a dear friend, who has also been memorized through her business name – ‘Acacia’ is a type of tree that pays homage to her spirituality while ‘Nay’s’ honors her late friend’s nickname.
In addition to joining the Kitchen Incubator, Pane was recently awarded a Food Entrepreneurship Assistant Microgrant – available through the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress, a member of THInC (The Hazleton Innovation Collaborative). This microgrant is available to any new and expanding business within the Hazleton Kitchen Incubator and can be used to cover the costs of rental time, permits and licensing, general business expenses, and more. As of now, Pane plans to use the funds received through the Food Entrepreneurship Assistant Microgrant for licensing fees and other costs associated with joining the incubator.
With her 14+ years of cooking experience, coupled with the resources provided by the Hazleton Kitchen Incubator and THInC partners like CAN DO, Pane hopes to eventually be able to grow her business and open a sit-down restaurant in the future. But for now, she is happy to have a place to cook and be surrounded by like-minded food entrepreneurs and artists.
“I truly believe food is an art form,” she said. “When you put your heart and soul on the plate, and you create these dishes, it’s like a painting. I just personally like art and I love food, and when I collaborate the two together I make some really amazing dishes.”
In addition to cooking in the Kitchen Incubator, Pane uses her passion to teach others at workshops held at the Back Mountain Makery in Dallas, Pennsylvania. So far she has hosted charcuterie and chocolate-tasting workshops and hopes to grow her educational offerings throughout the region, including her hometown of Hazleton. She looks forward to teaching people what she knows and becoming a mentor in the community.
You can find Acacia Nay’s ‘Grab-n-Go’ foods at the Back Mountain Makery and Susquehanna Brewing Company during their trivia nights. Pane hopes to share her elevated comfort food at more events soon.