In 2016, Dawn Kelly and her children, Jade Duncan and Owen Duncan, opened The Nourish Spot. Located in Jamaica, Queens, the restaurant serves smoothies, juices, and healthy food options such as salads and wraps.
|Address: 10705 Guy R Brewer Boulevard, Jamaica, Queens 11433|
Hours: Monday-Friday, 9:30AM-6:30PM; Saturday, 10AM-7PM
Service: Delivery, Curbside Pickup
Contact: (718) 526-2099, https://the-nourish-spot.business.site, @thenourishspot
Dawn made quite the pivot to the restaurant industry, having previously worked as an executive for a Fortune 500 company. She credits her interest in nutrition to her quest to get back in shape after years in the corporate world. “When I started work in 1998, I was a size 8. Sixteen years later, I was a size 16. Something had to give,” she says. Dawn became more active and started cooking healthier, not only for herself, but also to set a good example for her two children.
The Nourish Spot’s Beginnings
When Dawn decided to open The Nourish Spot, she secured the certifications and funding; she now takes care of the restaurant’s day to day operations. Owen and Jade were willing and well-equipped partners to help make the dream a reality. “I wanted both of them to have responsibilities, to have some skin in the game,” Dawn says.
Owen ordered the appliances and handled the graphics, designing the brand logo, staff shirts, and hoodies. Jade, a graduate of Johnson & Wales University-Charlotte’s culinary program, brought the legal, business, and culinary expertise. She had previous experience working as a cook at Walt Disney World’s Food & Wine Festival as well as on private cruises and yachts, where she traveled the world and was exposed to several cuisines. Her knowledge and expertise were critical for developing the restaurant’s unique and innovative menu.
The menu features many exciting options, such as the Strawberry Banana Slammer smoothie– made with coconut creme– and a juice aptly named “Playing With My Emotions” that contains mango, pineapple, orange and celery. “I like to take a classic like a strawberry and banana smoothie and put my own twist on it based on flavors I have experienced,” Jade explains. “I added celery juice to one of our fruit juices. You drink it, it tastes good, but there is something different that you can’t quite put your finger on. It’s that ‘what is that’ that keeps people coming back for more. It’s also an excellent way to hide vegetables.”
The Restaurant’s Impact
The Nourish Spot definitely has people coming back for more. Last year, it was named the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Micro Business of the Year, a recognition garnered based on a pleased customer’s nomination.
This is a particular source of pride for Dawn, as some non-Black business owners in Jamaica tried to dissuade her from opening a juice bar there. “During my corporate years, I kept my hair in a long, straight bob. I went to the same hairdresser for 16 years. One day, I told her that I was thinking of opening a juice bar. She looked at me, surprised, and responded, ‘Black people won’t like that. They want fried chicken,’” Dawn recalls. “The very next day, I went to a new Black female barber [@FadedFro] and had my hair cut off into the natural [style] I wear now.”
An Eatery in Jamaica, Queens
Despite these comments, she pressed on. It was important to Dawn to provide healthy options in the neighborhood where she grew up. “My grandfather fought in World War II. When he returned from the war, he wanted to buy a house in Levittown [a NY segregated suburban housing development built for returning World War II veterans and their families] but couldn’t [because of racism]. So he bought in Jamaica instead over 60 years ago. My dream was to buy my grandfather’s house. I did.”
Dawn’s sense of pride is palpable, especially since The Nourish Spot is located just one block from the family home where she still resides. There, she is able to inspire people like her. As a graduate of Howard University, she is invested in the importance of community ownership and giving back.
Jade, who also attended Howard before transferring to culinary school, agrees. “As [Vice President-Elect] Kamala Harris says, it is hard for people to envision themselves doing something they have never seen anyone else like them do. If you do something different, they call you crazy. But when [people from the neighborhood] see us, they think, ‘if they are doing this, maybe I can do it too’. Some people want to be the only one, but we need everyone to succeed. It’s no fun if it’s just us! We all need to be winning!”
The Nourish Spot’s Strong Connection to Community
The owners of The Nourish Spot do a lot to ensure that everyone is indeed winning. The restaurant participates in several community initiatives, including Senator Leroy Comrie’s “Serving Our Seniors” program. Jade spearheaded partnerships with organizations such as the Childcare Center of NY and Pathways to Graduation to provide culinary internships to local youth.
“These are kids from the community,” Dawn says. “They learn about the restaurant business and tell their families about us. It’s a great way to help young people while also getting the word out about the restaurant.” They have hosted over 40 youth, with nine young people currently working as permanent employees.
Two local Jamaica residents were so inspired by the entrepreneurship demonstrated by The Nourish Spot that they started their own food businesses: Sebastian Roseway of Bash Eats and Barshawn Fore of Bar Got Juice. Of Roseway, Dawn says, “We started encouraging him to pop up [selling food] in the places we have popped up in, and he started his own venture just three weeks ago.”
This dedication to unity led Dawn and Jade to participate in New York Tri-State Black Restaurant Week (www.blackrestaurantweeks.com), which will take place Friday, November 13 to Sunday, November 22. They also encouraged other Southeast Queens restaurant owners to support the event; both Bash Eats and Bar Got Juice will be participating. The Nourish Spot will be offering a special menu for Black Restaurant Week that includes a strawberry banana smoothie bowl.
Black Restaurant Week is particularly important this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit the food service industry quite hard. Jade has been instrumental in keeping The Nourish Spot running in these unprecedented times, incorporating innovations like a QR code menu on the restaurant window, curbside delivery, and a larger presence on delivery apps. She has also invested in a contactless, handless POS extension, so people can pay for their food outside instead of having to trust their cards outside of their sight. “The food is waiting for you when you get there. We try to help the process [of social distancing] by eliminating some of the touch points,” she adds.
In a neighborhood deemed a food swamp because of the preponderance of fast food restaurants, access to nutritious food is more important than ever. As Jade says, “People are so focused on vitamins now [because of the pandemic]. Vitamins can be gotten from the source, aka the fruits and vegetables where they come from. The Nourish Spot brings you the foods, juices, and smoothies that act as a first line defense, providing you the vitamins you need.”
The restaurant wants to make high quality food accessible to everyone, but they are unable to accept EBT because users are prevented from purchasing prepared food; this often causes low-income people to buy preservative-filled groceries that are cheaper and longer-lasting than fresh produce. However, they are not giving up.
Getting Politically Active
“I brought the idea up to Congressman Greg Meeks,” Dawn says. “He and [Congresswoman] Grace Meng are looking to push legislation forward that would allow people to use food stamps in small businesses to support them during COVID. The price of strawberries in so-called neighborhood grocery stores, which are not owned by community members, is exorbitant. [The business owners] buy a container wholesale at $1.50 and sell them 2 for $6 to Black and Brown people. It is all about their profit margins.”
To further disrupt the cycle of unhealthy eating endemic across the city, Dawn and Jade are preparing to expand The Nourish Spot’s brand and locations. “We are MWBE [Minority- and Women- Owned Business Enterprise] and ACDBE [Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise] certified. We will be in an airport near you [very soon],” says Dawn.
They also are gearing up as more large businesses come into Jamaica. “These companies come in but don’t interact [with the local business owners]. We want our juices and dressings in the big box retailers,” Jade says. One product that they hope to distribute at large grocery chains is Nourish, their house brand dressing filled with “green goodness” that customers often refer to as “the crack.”
There are big things in store for The Nourish Spot, and they need all the support they can get. Stop by sometime soon to try their delicious salads, smoothies, and juices.
For more restaurant owner spotlights, check out my interviews with Dawn Skeete of Jam’It Bistro in Red Hook, Brooklyn and Abena Duncan of Voilà Afrique in Midtown Manhattan.
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