In 1974 Randolph Nicholas opened Nicholas Brooklyn, a deeply-rooted community establishment. Since 2012, the Afrocentric store has been owned and operated by Nicholas’ daughter, Monique Nicholas Benjamin and her husband Joel Benjamin.
They carry a ton of Black-owned designer clothing, copper and metal jewelry designed by Uniquely Wired, beauty and grooming products —in addition to offering holistic health and spiritual items like crystals, essential oils and incense.
When you visit the store you’ll be enveloped by sweet smells of natural herbs and incense, and the owners are frequently on-hand to answer any questions or walk you through the store’s merchandise, which consists of Paris Williams hats and hand-knitted scarves, Pharaonic t-shirts and hoodies, woven bags and more.
But what truly sets them a part is their celebration of Kwanzaa.
In practicing the seven-principles of Kwanzaa, the Benjamins said, “The purpose of our establishment is to connect the different cultural barriers together.” Adding, “The landscape of Brooklyn changed greatly over the years, there are very few Black-owned businesses.”
During its store events, the Fulton Avenue store always provides a network of pro-Black vendors to strengthen the notion of buy Black.
One Nicholas vendor in particular offers food services at the store: PlantBass BK, owned by husband and wife team Ariel and Toni McCullough —a former-fashion model. PlantBass lists its healthy menu options in the style of a music playlist —or soundtrack— as they call it, with plates such as the “Nina Simone” dish (featuring vegan lasagna, kale cakes and fresh salad), and the “James Brown” dish (featuring vegan mac-n-cheese, fried vegan shrimp and sweet-baked oven acorn squash), giving a bit of musical inspiration to go along with the nourishment.
“We noticed there was a need in our community for healthy food,” said Ariel McCullough. “You always see fast-food places, liquor stores and it’s destroying the health of our people. Even with some vegan restaurants, they serve a lot of soy and wheat- which is not a healthy alternative.”
Adding, “We decided to open our own vegan restaurant and provide healthy meals for our people. All of our dishes are soy-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, animal-free and msg-free.”
In regards to this special time of year, the Nicholas storeowners feel like the embody the spirit of the holiday all year long. “Kwanzaa, to us, means a time for new beginnings,” said Nicholas Benjamin. “We celebrate it by honoring and respecting our ancestors.”
For Kwanzaa events and store shopping hours, please visit NicholasBrooklyn.com.