By Michelle Tompkins
While most of the city sleeps, Dawn Kelly, entrepreneur and owner of The Nourish Spot is carefully selecting only the finest fresh produce to turn into delicious, yet healthy smoothies, juices, salads, wraps and sweet offerings for her customers.
This establishment, which is conveniently located only a few moments from Kelly’s home, has been a fixture in the neighborhood since its launch with a ribbon cutting in September of 2017. It is so much more than offering the people of Queens healthy and tasty options — with its clean look and cheerful vibes — it is also a place where people can nourish their souls as well.
Just two years earlier, Kelly was dealt a huge blow when the position she served for 16 years at Prudential Financial, Inc. was eliminated.
After some tears, many conversations, some soul searching and a lot of prayer, Kelly — along with the help of her adult children Owen and Jade Duncan — turned a negative to a positive by deciding to open up a place to bring healthy food to the people in her neighborhood.
Kelly, a life-long healthy juice and veggie fan, understands the importance of providing healthy alternatives to the community.
“It's no secret that many residents of urban communities, often people of color, also find themselves beset with preventable ailments like high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and diet, which plays a significant role,” Kelly told the Eagle.
Her educational and professional backgrounds are impressive as she was educated at Howard University and spent more than 30 years working in political, public relations and advocacy.
In fact, while at Prudential, she led her team to create a landmark biannual behavioral study about African American finances.
“In that study, we learned that generational wealth was lacking in most families of color. It was just not part of the legacy for very many African American families, so I want to change that in mine,” said Kelly.
She received help from a League of Cities program that helps people with their small businesses. Without taking out a loan, Kelly used her know-how and her resources including severance and savings to bring her dream to life.
Kelly worked with her daughter Jade, — a graduate of Johnson & Wales University with an associates in Culinary Arts — who had previously worked for Disney, some smaller restaurants and a five star cruise line, to develop their signature recipes.
This process involved a lot of trial and error.
“I basically mixed things that I thought would go together; if it worked great if it didn’t back to the drawing board,” said daughter Jade Duncan, co-owner and chef behind the creations of The Nourish Spot.
Shortly before the official opening, The Nourish Spot had a soft launch and gave samples to customers for free in order to test recipes and gauge interest. It wasn’t long before neighbors and local politicians began to take notice.
On Sept. 12, 2017, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz sent out an announcement to the community that she would be coming to congratulate Kelly. Katz even gave Kelly a Certificate of Appreciation for her accomplishment.
Councilmember I. Daneek Miller who represents the district where The Nourish Spot is located also supported Kelly’s business. While Miller’s favorite is the made-to-order apple, oats, and cashew shake, he is happy about the large variety of options available at The Nourish Spot.
“They provide healthy food choices, which fits well with our plan to make Council District 27 the City’s healthiest. It also promotes an environment where health conscious and other like minded individuals can interact and exchange ideas. I've had some engaging conversations with other patrons there, including young college students” Miller told the Eagle.
Customers just love it and keep coming back. While the Pineapple Mango Tango and Strawberry Banana Slammer are very popular, the menu is customizable in order for customers to pick the ingredients they want in order to create the perfect juice, smoothie or meal.
Brian “BDot” Miller the Senior Director of Editorial & Playlists at Epic Records and co-host of Rap Radar Podcast found The Nourish Spot online and patronizes them almost every day and finds it to be a special place.
“First off, it’s a Black-owned juice bar in our neighborhood! There are not too many places like it. It’s clean and the produce is fresh. Also, the owner Dawn and her staff are always friendly and welcoming,” said Brian “B.Dot” Miller.
Bringing healthy options to the neighborhood is a primary priority for Kelly, a New York native, who participates in many community activities including the Jamaica Is Arts Alliance, the Center for Arts and Learning. She is also a member of the Greater Allen A.M. E. Cathedral of New York congregation.
Kelly even went to great trouble — and expense — to make sure that The Nourish Spot improves the community even when it is closed. She hired popular street artist Lexi Bella to paint a beautiful mural for the gate that embodies the spirit of her business titled “Nourish Me.” It was completed in December 2016.
“I painted the gate for two reasons — to make me know progress was still happening with my legacy passion project and because I love Street Art!” said Kelly.
Lexi Bella explained her inspiration for the piece, as being the idea of a goddess as the essence of beauty and nourishment surrounded by fresh gorgeous fruit.
“The owner’s hands-on attention to every design detail, every experience and flavor designed to nourish your body and soul,” said Lexi Bella, who has a show on November 29 at 3rd Ethos Gallery on Knickerbocker Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
Kelly is involved in every aspect of this business. There is no job that is not too large nor too small that she won’t do from public relations to payroll to customer service to chopping the fruit or sweeping the floor.
The business serves about 40 deliveries and about 40 walk-in customers per day.
The Nourish Spot now partners with UberEats, Postmates, DoorDash and GrubHub, so these healthy items are available for delivery. They are open Monday through Saturday.
While Kelly and Jade are at the helm, the team is rounded out by one full-time employee and a couple of part-time workers who are local teens.
Kelly has big plans for The Nourish Spot.
Her goals are to make The Nourish Spot a household name. She wants to take it to airports, Port Authority and hopefully, even to schools.
“I would love for some charter schools to consider us as their lunchroom providers,” said Kelly.
Kelly is supportive of other small business owners and advises them to network as much as possible.
Councilman Miller offered the following advice for people wanting to open a business in his district, “Take advantage of the services and resources offered by the City’s Department of Small Business Services as well as organizations with a history of empowering our community’s businesses, such as the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation or any of our several Business Improvement Districts and Chambers of Commerce. My office stands ready to either help you get connected or create your own group. We firmly believe in the saying that there is strength in numbers.”
In addition to providing healthy meals, snacks and a nice clean place where people can feel good on the inside and out, Kelly has someone come in to read to children and provides them with access to books.
“The Nourish Spot aims to provide residents of the Jamaica, New York community and beyond with wholesome, fresh, healthy but tasty beverage and salad options,” said Kelly. “I'm glad to be able to provide my community not only with fresh fruit and vegetables, but also with information that links to people and opportunities.”
The Nourish Spot is located at 107-05 Guy R Brewer Blvd., Jamaica NY 11433 and followed on social media @thenourishspot on FB, Twitter and Instagram.