As the blackout descended on southeast Queens last Sunday evening, Dawn Kelly was closing The Nourish Spot, her health food restaurant and juice bar on Guy Brewer Boulevard in Jamaica.
Kelly headed to her home around the corner without the same concerns that so many other restaurant owners fear during a blackout.
“I didn’t let it affect my business at all,” Kelly said. “Actually I had a banner day Sunday because I spoke at my church on Saturday, and all of the ladies came down to The Nourish Spot afterward and pretty much bought me out.”
After failing to be profitable when she first opened in 2017, The Nourish Spot turned a profit in 2018 after friends tried to discourage Kelly from starting her own company, fearing that the neighborhood would not support a health food business. Last April she proved them wrong by beating out a million entrepreneurs around the country to win the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Microbusiness Person of the Year for 2019.
“I spent Monday morning replenishing inventory instead of throwing it out,” Kelly said. “I had to throw away some non-dairy milks and some of my juice blends. Even the ice in my small freezer never melted.”
Instead, Kelly was able to use the blackout as a teachable moment for her staff, which is made up of youth from the neighborhood. The youth got summer jobs at The Nourish Spot through the Child Center of New York and the city’s C-CAP program, which prepares more than 2,000 students for careers in the restaurant and hospitality industry.
“The city pays them but we train them in the culinary arts, hospitality, customer service and general life skills,” Kelly said. “For most of them it’s their first job. We are so glad to be a culinary training ground and a community worksite where these kids can see someone who looks like them owning and running a business, learn the ins and outs of entrepreneurship and learn team building.”
One of her workers from the Summer Youth Employment Program proved to have valuable knowledge following the blackout.
“So we had virtually no interference from the blackout and it gave them more experience,” Kelly said. “Except for Maya. She was already familiar with the Department of Health rules and regulations and knew what should be tossed. All in all, the neighborhood was back online but it was a but quieter than normal. I had less walk-in business on Monday.”