The first floor display windows of the National Newark Building located at 744 Broad Street catches the eye. Pops of lacy white flowing wedding gowns, tailored blazers accented by posh vibrant ties, and vitrines exhibiting glittery accessories and handbags fill the bay glass frames.
Today, people are walking in-and-out smiling and holding bags while waving goodbye to those inside. Passersby cannot help notice the laughter and soulful music wafting onto the sidewalks.
Life is in there.
The storefront location is home to a downtown pop up shop started by Melvin Sykes, a real estate professional focusing on the downtown area, launched a holiday market in December 2015 that is still running.
According to Sykes, people who have been working in Newark for years, and never shopped in the city, are beginning to find their way into store. Even those Newarkers, who have not been in the downtown area, visit the unique space.
Rasheedah Ali, a fashion and accessories designer who focuses on fashionable, conservative wear says that all types of people come in, from white, to black, to Latino. “I am happy when people tell me that they feel safe, and they love the different things that the vendors carry. We are family helping each other and it shows.”
The storefront of the National Newark Building used to be dead space. Covered windows sat for months in the location, and unfortunately fed into the landscape eyesore in downtown Newark consisting of visible vacant or abandoned commercial spaces. People like Melvin Sykes is changing that.
He conceptualized the popup in his desire to provide an affordable commercial space to talented. He recruited a collection of vendors all carrying their own products with individual flair.
Some of them were clients that I had that were looking or spaces and I had to prove to them that this area was ready for market rate and luxury brands. Others were people that I had promised that I would find them a place but the lack of retail space over here, I really couldn’t find them anything that was affordable for them. Some of them are friends of mine that I said, ‘Hey, you want to make some money. And show them how to make money. As far as expanding their brands.
The pop up comprises of 15 vendors selling clothes to accessories, to art and personal body care products. All are local, either living in Newark, have lived in the city, but now definitely working. Open from 11 AM to 8PM, it is one of the few locally operated stores retailing authenticated luxury items, high-fashion designs, vintage apparel, natural-crafted products and affordable art collections.
Having 15 different companies of artists, might seem intimidating, but Sykes reassures, “Believe it or not, it all gelled. At first you had differences such as where you put vintage or a $700. So we had sort of a conflict because [vendors wanted to make sure that others would] not mess up my brand. But once we put this into action, it all fell into place. Its an experiment where we are able to do this and it succeeded.”
The mix-up boutique has become a collective in which vendors are helping each other. Without a POS system, and even some vendors who are not connected to merchant services, the efforts to empower and enfranchise keeps the good karma and warm fuzzy feeling when you walk in. It breathes, “Good people are in here.”
Sykes explains that there is a system of envelopes and other ways to help people carry out transactions. “This not only makes the building look good, but I makes Newark look good. This is a social experiment and social mobility because you want to grow.”
Vendors from top left to right: Judith Langford, Style is Your Option; ; Judy Davis, Love Your Self; Larry D. Lyons, Brick City Varsity; Rasheedah Ali, Rasidah’s Home Shopping; Douglas Says; Valerie Dickson, Simply Elegant; Benedict Hadley, Kik Rox; Angelic Nostaligia, Sabri Jewelry. (Not picture Michelle New York, Embellish, Marco Hall, Pooka Pure & Simple, Dans Hats, Beautiful Bags, Nitjuan Designs)