Justin Williams - Brick City Comedy Revue

Brick City Comedy Revue celebrates four years of lifting spirits through humor

The comedy series just celebrated its fourth year of showcasing comics from Newark and throughout the region at Kilkenny Alehouse.

Inaugural Newark First Fridays kicks off downtown on May 5th

After months of planning and a crowdfunding campaign that raised nearly $3,500, Newark First Fridays will kick off its first season when it launches downtown on May 5th. The festival will take place on Halsey Street between Warren and New Streets from 1 p.m. until 8 p.m.

Underground Skate Shop flagship store grand opening is Saturday, June 18th at noon

Underground Skate Shop will celebrate the grand opening of its new flagship store this Saturday, June 18th at noon. The 1,500-square-foot shop is located at 145 Halsey Street downtown Newark.

The shop was founded in 2010 in Ridgewood and then expanded to a location in Nutley, and has been a driving force behind the New Jersey skate scene. With more than 200 decks (that’s the wooden part of a skateboard) on hand at all times as well as footwear and apparel, it should be a welcome addition to the burgeoning downtown district and Halsey corridor.

Be sure to stop by Saturday and say hello to owners Mark and Clint, who reported on the shop’s Facebook page recently that their official first customer beat everyone to the punch by showing up a couple days early.


SHE Boutique offers area a women a taste of contemporary trends on Halsey Street

business cardSurrounded by new restaurants, businesses and ongoing construction, Halsey Street is a microcosm of Newark’s growth potential. The street is located in one of the city’s most desirable locations and serves as a prime area for economic and cultural growth. For SHE Boutique owners Tina Owugah and Lanel Lundy-Pascal, a window on Halsey street serves as an introduction of their brand to the blooming city.  

With a 25 year friendship between them, Owugah, a clinical trial head at Novartis pharmaceuticals, and Lundy-Pascal, a former executive secretary at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, are match made in small business heaven. Both women had the itch to start a business, but couldn’t decide on what to do.

“My partner [Lundy-Pascal] and I had been thinking about opening a business for a while, but we weren’t sure what to do, until this opportunity just fell in our laps,” said Owugah.

Prior to SHE Boutique becoming a reality, 83 Halsey street was home to Luxe Boutique, a women’s consignment clothing store. Owugah, who patronized the braiding store below her current location, was intrigued when she encountered the store boarded up on more than one occasion.

“I have been taking my kids to the braid shop here for  years. And one day, I came to visit and I asked ‘What’s going on with the boutique upstairs, why is it always closed?’” said Owugah.

“I asked the landlord to call me, and he said that they were in the process of moving the former tenant out. I said as soon as that’s sorted out, please call me. Just knowing the construction that was going on, with Prudential and the growth on Halsey Street and the growth in Newark, period, especially in the downtown area, the space was perfect,” she continued.

Decorated with a plush zebra skin rug and racks of figure-hugging dresses and custom-made ankara ensembles, SHE Boutique posits itself as the fashion destination for anyone looking for original clothing pieces from local Newark designers, as well as affordable, trend-driven contemporary options.

After a seven-month wait for the former occupant to completely vacate the location, Owugah and Pascal-Lundy were tasked with making SHE Boutique the destination it is now in a very short time.

“It took us literally like two months to kind of get in here paint, do what was necessary, like get some equipment and supplies, get things going, promote, and open.” said Owugah.

In nine months, the location quickly transformed from a space in transition to a fully stocked clothing boutique and fashion destination.

In addition to serving as a boutique, sometimes Owugah and Lundy-Pascal transform the Halsey location into a miniature runway to promote local designers like Anthony Eastwick and Bariel Dean. The owners plan to expand the store, but not in the way most will expect from a fashion boutique. SHE, which is also an acronym for Spiritual Healing and Empowerment, moonlights as a women’s group that aims to work with women “from the inside out”.

According to a statement released by the owners, fashion is only the beginning of SHE boutique’s journey.

“We want to not only be a boutique, but also a very strong presence in the community that offer promotions and special events to help uplift and support all women.”

SHE boutique is located on  83 Halsey St. Newark, NJ. For more, visit their Instagram page.

Sweet smell of success: Handmade body products and African-inspired apparel offered at thriving Halsey Street shop

Patchouli, frankincense and myrrh are some of the scents that might greet you at the doorway to Ancient African Formula on Halsey Street. That is unless the embroidered prints adorning the mannequins in the store’s display window don’t lure you in first.

Aminata Dukuray, a native of Gambia by way of Sierra Leone, runs the health and lifestyle store with the help of her four daughters. At around 1 p.m. on any given weekday, one can find Dukuray bottling samples of her sweet-smelling body oils, or explaining to her loyal customers how exactly her Super Hair Grow formula works.

Dukuray’s Ancient African Formula skincare and hair care products are all handmade by Dukuray herself in the back of the store. Customers who find themselves there will see blocks of her uncut Shea butter soap ready to be packaged and sold.

aminata dukuray

Aminata Dukuray owns Ancient African Formula on Halsey Street. Source: ancientafricanformula.com.

Dukuray opened the Halsey Street store in November of 2014, but she has been in business much longer than that, making her products for at-home use before becoming a wholesaler and stocking local beauty supply stores all over New Jersey with her products.

“I’ve been in business for a long, long time,” said Dukuray when asked about the origin of her line. “I started making my products at home because my daughter had ringworm, and nothing was working. So I decided to try and make something myself, and that’s how it started.”

Less than a year after Dukuray opened shop, she has built a legion of customers that keep coming back for her sweet-smelling products.

“I buy oils. I buy soap. I buy Shea butter. I even buy earrings. I love her products because they are natural. I use them for everything,” said Kecia Richardson-Gilbert, one of Dukuray’s customers.

Beyond skin and hair care, Ancient African Formula is also home to African-inspired jewelry, artwork and more recently, clothing. As Dukuray bagged up another one of her orders, a customer lamented  the sign outside the store informing customers that Dukuray will not be able to take anymore clothing orders for another two weeks due to her busy schedule.

aaf accessories

Ancient African formula offers clothing, accessories, and artwork in addition to body products.

“I overbooked myself. People were making so many orders for the clothes that I barely had time to make my products,” Dukuray explained. “Customers came in and there was nothing on the shelves, nothing to sell.”

The new additions to Dukuray’s brand are bespoke, embroidered outfits made from African prints — prints that her daughter brings back to the U.S. from her trips to West Africa. From the midday rush in Dukuray’s store, it is clear that her store is thriving.

“Everyone comes here, it’s not just African women. Some people come because their friends tell them about it, and some just come because they see the sign,” Dukuray said.

Even though her store is doing well, Dukuray is not one to rest on her laurels. The businesswoman is already in the planning stages of developing an African-inspired restaurant right next door to her existing space.

“I see it [Ancient African Formula] growing. I see us opening more stores, and not just in New Jersey,” she said.

Ancient African Formula is located at 109 Halsey Street. The shop is open from Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Shop online herePhotograph of Aminata Dukuray via ancientafricanformula.com.

With Indian-infused burger joint, Newark economic development pro builds the type of business he once tried to attract

Check out our Halsey Street story map for more articles and previews in this series, and stay tuned to Facebook, Twitter, and our homepage for updates on new stories.

It’s mid-November in Newark, and Kai Campbell is getting ready to realize a dream: the opening of his and his wife Tamara’s new burger joint on his beloved Halsey Street.

That makes Campbell, a third generation Newarker, just the latest small business owner to launch a venture on Halsey Street, a corridor that, thanks in part to its prime location sandwiched just east of University Heights and west of Broad Street, has become a hub of downtown redevelopment.

“It was always my intent to save where I’m from,” said Campbell in an interview conducted in late October, as he oversaw construction at Burger Walla, the Campbells’ unique burger spot. Burger Walla opened its doors to the public with a soft launch on December 2.

Campbell, 33, is a University of Virginia graduate who has spent much of his post-collegiate life trying to bring big businesses to his hometown. He’s held several economic development jobs with the city, and was also was the former Senior Associate of Real Estate for Brick City Development Corporation. “I’ve met with every major retailer you can think of,” he said of his quest to bring business to the city.

Now he’s bringing business in a different way — by launching one himself. Along with his wife, Campbell also runs NewarkPulse.com, a local website that mainly focuses on positive news stories in and around Newark. They’re a true family about Newark: in addition to publishing about the city and launching a business here, Campbell, his wife, and their toddler and newborn live in town, as well.

One factor that can make it tough to attract businesses to Halsey Street and downtown Newark, Campbell said, is that they see Rutgers and NJIT as commuter schools, and consequently assume the coveted student population does not venture past Washington Street. But Campbell thinks Halsey Street is a good investment, and that he can get students to consistently cross that invisible border. “This is the epicenter of where development can take off,” Campbell said.

Social media users review Burger Walla

Thus Burger Walla, an Indian-influenced burger joint that serves everything from beef burgers and flat grilled hot dogs to shrimp and chicken burgers infused with Indian spices. The restaurant also offers an Indian drink called a “lassi,” akin to a traditional milkshake. “Instead of using ice cream, we’re going to use yogurt,” said Campbell.

Why Indian-inspired fare?

For one, Campbell loves Indian food, and he believes others who haven’t yet tried it will love it too if they give it a chance. “People don’t know that they like Indian food,” he mused. “I think by me putting a twist on burgers, which everybody can recognize, I think they’ll be more receptive to Indian food,” he added.

Campbell said the restaurant’s Indian elements are authentic. “I’ve flown halfway around the world to go to a single Indian restaurant before,” he said. In addition, his wife Tamara Campbell is of Indian descent.

The menu is also infused with a couple tastes of New Jersey and the couple’s beloved Brick City: Best hot dogs, Boylan sodas (Best Provision recently celebrated its 75th anniversary in Newark; Boylan Bottling Company was born in New Jersey over a century ago.)

In addition to offering unique food, the Campbells are also looking to infuse their restaurant with a distinct culture fit for a popular neighborhood hangout spot. Campbell said he hopes Burger Walla’s ambiance will keep college students and other community members coming back. “Every Monday night we’re going to be showing independent films,” he said.  Along with the movie nights, they also plan to offer viewings of sports events, outdoor dining — weather permitting — and live music.

Find Burger Walla on Facebook and Twitter for updates on events, and check their website for the restaurant’s menu and blog.


Haven on Halsey Street: The Newark LGBTQ Center offers safety, support, and services

Check out our Halsey Street story map for more articles and previews in this series, and stay tuned to Facebook, Twitter, and our homepage for updates on new stories. Above: The interior of the Newark LGBTQ Center. Photo: Dorothy Chau

Every Wednesday night at the Newark LGBTQ Support Center at 11 Halsey Street, a group of roughly ten people representing different ages, backgrounds, and life experiences gather together to crochet scarves and ponchos for dialysis patients. As colorful skeins of yarn are transformed into clothing that will give warmth to others, the conversation weaves back and forth, stitching a small, caring group of support for those present.

There’s a young college student at Rutgers-Newark who identifies herself as a lesbian, and has yet to come out to her family and friends. Another woman, who works at the Prudential Center, recently discovered the wonders of online dating — she met another woman online — and after having scheduled her first date with a woman, she wants some advice. A mother of three in her late forties tells a story of coming out as a lesbian, resulting in a divorce from her husband. One of the newest members of the group recently escaped Sierra Leone due to homosexuality being against the law.

The conversation is open and honest. In a predominately heterosexual world where identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender can leave some feeling isolated and lonely, a support group like this is also a lifeline, says Reverend Janyce Jackson Jones, director of the center.

“Many of these people are not yet open about their sexuality, or cannot be open about their sexuality, so I want to give them a space where they can feel safe and truly be who they are,” she said on a recent Wednesday night crocheting session, as she quietly observed the conversation and knitted a multi-hued scarf.

crochet circle

Newbies to the crochet circle can pay $30 for crochet lessons and materials, or bring their own materials and join in if they already know how. Proceeds are used towards maintenance of the Newark LGBTQ center. Photo: Dorothy Chau

In fact, the support center’s mission is “to create and sustain a better quality of life for the LGBTQ Community of Greater Newark, by providing community-driven programs and services,” according to the organization’s website.

The creation of the center was sparked by the stabbing of 15-year old Sakia Gunn in 2003. While waiting for a bus at 10 p.m. with two friends on Market Street, two men approached Gunn for sex. When she told them she was a lesbian, they began beating her. She was ultimately stabbed multiple times with a knife, while her friends got away.

After the murder, Reverend Janyce Jackson Jones, who was one of the founding members of an AIDS/HIV awareness center known as the Liberation In Truth Social Justice Center (LITSJC), began pushing for the creation of the LGBTQ Center. After ten years, she had finally gathered enough donations and support, and the center opened its doors to the general public in October 2013.

Not only is Jones responsible for managing the Newark LGBTQ Support Center, but she also is a reverend of the nondenominational Unity Fellowship Church. Masses are held every Sunday at 21 Rector Street.

It’s been over a year since the transformation of the support center started, and the renovations continue. Floors have been replaced and the walls have been painted a friendly purple. All of the workers at the center are volunteers who dedicate their own time to improve the center and the lives of those around them.

Previously, LITSJC provided services for the people of Newark that included free testing and education regarding HIV/AIDS. The revolutionized Newark LGBTQ Support Center provides a much broader suite of services that address a wider spectrum of individual needs and interests and also help to unify the community, from hobbies, fitness, and social events to health and emotional support. Aside from the weekly crochet and knitting group, the center also hosts creative writing workshops, yoga on Thursdays, movie nights, drumming circles, and life lesson workshops for adolescents. On Thursdays, the center feeds meals to the homeless, an event known as God’s Love We Deliver.

As the LGBTQ Support Center grows, more support and funding will be required to maintain the center. According to Jackson, “the yearly budget for the center is $154,000. This is a very lean budget that only includes salary for two part-time staff, and the overhead costs include rent, maintenance, utilities and running projects.”

Future projects include setting up tables on nearby college campuses to spread the word about the center and to promote LGBTQ awareness, and collaborating with other organizations that advocate for safe sex and HIV/AIDS awareness.

Ultimately, Reverend Jackson wants to put the community and its members first. “I want to make the center a hub with many different services, but what’s most important is that we make a safe space that allows people to feel comfortable and be open with themselves,” she says.

Find the Newark LGBTQ Center on Facebook and Twitter.


Newark glass-blowing studio GlassRoots combines art and entrepreneurship for students

Check out our Halsey Street story map for more articles and previews in this series, and stay tuned to Facebook, Twitter, and our homepage for updates on new stories.

“Forging lives through fire and glass”: it’s not just the phrase GlassRoots uses underneath their name on the organization’s website. The Newark-based glassblowing shop and education nonprofit puts the slogan to practice through its learning initiatives, providing an outlet for Newark youth to explore their creative side, develop career-molding skills, and become practicing entrepreneurs.

Located just off Halsey Street at 10 Bleeker Street, the nonprofit, which is funded by individual donors, foundation grants, and sales of glass products produced at the facility, has been serving the community for more than a decade now. The two-story facility features a flamework studio, a flat shop, and a glass melting shop.

But it’s not all about the glass, as was evident during a recent visit to their workshop.

“With all the pressures kids might have to deal with outside of this place…GlassRoots can be a fun, productive way for them to let loose a little bit,” said 25-year-old artist James Blake, reflecting on the influence Glassworks has had on the lives of his students, as he worked with three teenagers on their glass mosaics.

Blake said that when he graduated from Boston College with a degree in studio art five years ago, he had no idea at the time that he would later use those skills to transform kids’ lives.

Reflecting on his own experience as a student, Blake recalled not being the best at reading, writing, and arithmetic in the traditional sense. Instead, he found applications for all those skills in art, and hopes to pass that possibility onto the students. Blake believes kids don’t have to learn everything from a book. “It’s better to learn it by seeing it for yourself visually and doing it. You might make mistakes along the way, but that’s the challenge about it,” he explained.

GlassRoots’ focus as an institution is on providing a comprehensive “STEAM” curriculum: instructors use science, technology, engineering, arts, and math as the basis for teaching, and hope students who emerge from their program are college- and career ready, and gain skills that are transferrable to many life situations.

Glassroots was founded in 1999 by Pat Kettenring, an avid glass collector and former director of the Business and the Arts program at Rutgers-Newark Business School.

In 2001, Ketternring visited the Glass Museum of Tacoma, Washington. It was during that trip that she learned about a program that had been launched by people in the glass industry there. The program, called Hilltop Artists-in-Residence, provided homeless youth a path towards self-sufficiency through glassmaking and art.

GlassRoots provides instruction in the same vein to its student participants, but took the Hilltop program a step further by adding formal training in color, spatial concepts, learning skills, communication, and entrepreneurial know-how. As Executive Director Barbara Heisler explained, “We use the glass as a vehicle to teach other skills.”

One of those skills is focus. “When making a [glass] bead, it’s a very singular process. You’re sitting in front of a 2,200-degree flame. You have to be aware of what’s going on around you,” Heisler said. “In essence, you’re learning how to ‘pat your head and rub your tummy’ at the same time, because you’re making your hands do two very different things,” she added

The program also emphasizes teamwork. In the flatshop – the area where students make mosaic art out of glass – students often work in groups. “The flat shop is very collaborative…it’s not only [about] color and learning geometry. [There’s also] a lot of open communication… [and] problem solving,” Heisler said.

And in the hot shop located in the back of the studio, the teamwork takes on a new dynamic. “It’s almost intuitive,” said Heisler. “You have to anticipate someone’s needs.”

Back in the workshop session, the mosaics were coming together, and Jarod Carm, 16, was experiencing the satisfaction of making his first piece of mosaic art. “The people here are awesome. It’s not all work, work,” Carm said. “We get to express ourselves and make what we want,” he added.

Find GlassRoots on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Read about their programs and find glass products for sale at GlassRoots.org.

Photo credit: Andaiye Taylor

Video touts cafes and restaurants along a stretch of Halsey Street

The website NJ Arts News has published a video profile of the businesses along Halsey Street. The Coffee Cave, Art Kitchen, 27Mix, La Cocina, Hot Thai, and Green Chicpea are all featured or name-checked in the report.

“Two years ago when I just started it was, like, empty,” said Justyna Stachowicz, owner of Art Kitchen. “Now I see how it’s changing. Every week we see new faces,” she added.

Credited with the success of the Halsey district are its strategic proximity to Newark’s colleges and universities, and a collaborative ethos among business owners in the area. Check out the video below. (Reposted with permission from NJ Arts News.)

Follow NJ Arts News on Facebook and Twitter.


In entrepreneurial milestone, Jersey City candlemaker Wax Kandy earns shelf space at Newark-based bath and body shop

Pictured above: Wax Kandy for Pooka Pure & Simple. Photo credit: Nandi Christina

Jersey City native Kimberly Sumpter recently came in second place in Rising Tide Capital’s Start Something Challenge (disclosure: the author was a judge for the pitch competition). Just over two months later, she’s reached a milestone in the life of her business: her scented candles are now available at Pooka Pure & Simple on Halsey Street in Newark.

I asked Kimberly about her business and how she came to get her products on shelves.


Andaiye Taylor: What is Wax Kandy?

Kimberly Sumter: Wax Kandy is a line of scented and photo keepsake candles manufactured in Jersey City. I’ve been making the candles for five years, but have considered this a business just within the last year.

The line that’ll be in Pooka is the line of scented candles. They’re 100% soy based, so it’s an eco-friendly option for those that like burning candles. These also have aromatherapy properties.


ART: Why did you select this particular product to sell at Pooka Pure & Simple?

Kimberly Sumter: I selected that candle because of the types of products Pooka is selling, which include natural skin and body products. I wanted to make sure the line of candles I’m bringing to her store made sense for her brand.


ART: And how did your line come to be in Pooka? How did the deal happen?

KS: Actually its funny, because prior to Start Something, I sent Dawn a message on Facebook just to ask her if she planned on carrying candles in the store, and how I’d go about getting my candles carried there [if so]. I was aware that the person she had in the store at the time was no longer manufacturing candles.

She responded back very quickly and told me that she was interested, and said to send a wholesale package. When she said that to me I was a bit afraid, because I actually didn’t have wholesale packages.

But that was around when the Start Something Challenge happened. When I came home the night that I [placed in] the contest, she’d actually sent another message saying she’d love to get my candles in the store, and that she wanted to talk to me.

A week or two later we sat down and met, and I just loved her. I was ready to give a big pitch, but in the end that wasn’t necessary. She embraced me and basically wanted the products on the spot, and she even gave me business advice, which I thought was really awesome. I went home and started creating candles for the scents she liked, created new packaging, and now they’re on the shelves.


ART: When did Pooka officially start selling your candles?

KS: Dawn put them on the shelves last week. I was in contact with her this past Friday to see how everything was going. She said, “I think these are going to be really good.” They’ve been selling.


ART: Where does this rank for you in terms of your business objectives? Do you consider this a major milestone?

This is definitely a milestone for many reasons, the first being that Dawn is somebody I really look up to in this industry. I knew about her company. I knew she was one of the people I wanted to approach to have a retail location for Wax Kandy. The timing was just perfect when it all came together.

This was the biggest milestone because I’ve heard her on Michael Baisden and seen her on the cover of Black Enterprise, and on national and local television. Her dream was so similar to mine: at home, in the kitchen, having a love and a need for a product and creating it. She was kind of like my friend in my head, and she never even knew that.


ART: What’s your next move?

KS: Right now I’m being very selective and trying to choose the right retail partners, because realistically I’m still at a starting point. I can’t afford my own storefront at this point.

[Ultimately] I’m looking to have a business in Jersey City, where I was born and raised, because being in my community is very important to me. So for the next year, having great retail partners is the goal. That’ll help me see how I’m doing and help me figure out where I should go with this next.

Wax Kandy scented candles are available for sale at Pooka Pure & Simple, 87 Halsey St, Newark, NJ

Contact Kimberly and Wax Kandy: