By Naeisha Rose
Two years ago, Dawn Kelly was let go after her position as vice president of Global Communications at Prudential Financial was eliminated at the company. But rather than look at that day as a great loss, she decided to reclaim it and become her own boss.
Kelly had a full-circle moment on Sept. 9, which marked the grand opening of The Nourish Spot, an all-natural juice bar and salad joint in Jamaica that she owns.
The grand opening started at 11 a.m. with a ribbon cutting and ran until 3 p.m. Customers had a chance to taste small samples of fruit and veggie drinks, with ingredients supplied by a Jetro Restaurant Depot, a whole foods supermarket in Maspeth.
The Nourish Spot has 27 different fruit, vegetable, spice, milk, water, nut and juice options.
Kelly’s passion for juicing did not come out of nowhere. In 2014, out of fear of becoming obese and a desire to become a positive example to her kids, she decided to make her own smoothies and drinks.
“I started juicing to lose weight,” Kelly said. “I was afraid of becoming ill.”
The store at 107-05 Guy Brewer Blvd., just minutes away from York College, offers an ongoing 10 percent discount to customers with a student ID.
Five months after being let go, a segment on CNN featuring Corona rapper Styles P opening a juice bar in Westchester inspired Kelly to turn her love of juicing into a business. She made it a family affair, while bringing friends into the mix, as well.
Her daughter, Jade Duncan, 26, earned her associate’s degree in culinary arts from Johnson & Wales and is the chief operating officer of Nourish. Her son, Owen Duncan II, 28, is the chief financial officer and helps maintain the nine-seat takeout store.
“At Johnson & Wales, we learned to balance books and we had a menu-planning class so we would not give anything away or overcharge for the percentage you want to make back,” said Jade.
Kelly’s good friend, Clorraine Saint-Cyr, a senior designer at Robert C. Gaskin Architects, helped her turn what was once a hole-in-the-wall into a modern, yet rustic Greenwich Village-style potential hotspot.
“When I decided to start my own business, I walked outside around my neighborhood and I saw a sign that said DK Upholstery,” Kelly said. “That was my sign my juice bar would be there, and it is.”
At first, not many people saw the potential of the former fabric store with her initials, but her friend Saint-Cyr did.
“A year ago, the place was a complete pit,” Saint-Cyr said. “She told me her vision and I could see it, so I made it happen.”
Her daughter’s friend, Cecelia Cipriano, an interior decorator, helped put the finishing touches on the store.
Before investing her own savings and her severance package into the business, Kelly sought guidance from the SCORE Association, a non-profit that provides free business mentoring services to entrepreneurs. Kelly also received help from Lisa Ennis, a launch specialist at the city’s New Business Acceleration Team program, which is part of the Small Business Services Department.
Kelly is working in conjunction with August Martin High School’s vocational coordinator, Sheriann King, to bring aboard five or six students through the school’s job placement program.
“At the end of the day, I want to leave my kids a legacy,” Kelly said.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose