Black-owned skin care company NKVSKIN is the second of five storefronts opening in downtown Baltimore this year through a program striving to fill downtown vacancies and support Black entrepreneurs.
Owner and licensed esthetician Nikia Keevie Vaughan celebrated the grand opening of her business’s storefront on North Charles Street on Wednesday. She is one of the members of the 2021 class of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore’s Black-Owned and Operated Storefront Tenancy (BOOST) program.
BOOST recipients are eligible for up to $50,000 in grants that can be used for operations, interior improvements, signage, and other costs. They also receive technical, legal, marketing, zoning and permitting, and accounting support and an affordable lease.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, retail stores in Baltimore’s central business district have struggled to stay afloat amid economic uncertainty. A 2020 survey showed that 94% of 150 businesses in the downtown area experienced layoffs, furloughs, and closures due to the pandemic, according to the Baltimore Business Journal.
Located at 113 N. Charles Street, NKVSKIN’s new storefront is on a block dominated by office buildings and hotels, but with few other retail spaces. The skin care company is situated between David and Dad’s Cafe and an empty storefront.
“We need to make sure there are retail locations, that there are service locations, some of the things that we need as residents and businesses downtown on the ground level,” said Shelonda Stokes, president of the Downtown Partnership. “BOOST allows us to do that. This was one of our amazing programs that really helped make sure that as we are building these ground-level experiences that we are also doing it with a lens towards equity.”
The first 2021 BOOST class member to open a downtown space this year was the Black Genius Art Show, an art space and fashion brand founded by Bryan Robinson, which opened a hybrid art gallery at 106 N. Eutaw St.
The program’s other 2021 recipients, including Elite Secrets Bridal, Media Rhythm Institute, and Codetta Bake Shop, will open downtown storefronts during the second half of 2022.
The application window for BOOST’s 2022 program season will also open during the second half of this year.
Stokes said other cities have been reaching out to the Downtown Partnership to use the BOOST program as a model.
Before the company’s online launch in 2018, NKVSKIN was a hobby for Vaughan. After her daughter was diagnosed with sickle cell disease at 6 weeks old, Vaughan turned her love for skin care into supplemental income to help pay for her daughter’s medical treatment.
While Vaughan initially developed skin care products with women in mind, she has developed a line for men, which includes both beard and skin care products.
The interior of NKVSKIN’s storefront reflects Vaughan’s mission to provide quality, homemade products to both men and women. Inside the store, NKVSKIN features two spa treatment rooms; a product room, where Vaughan stores and mixes NKVSKIN products; and a gentleman’s section
Vaughan said these features set NKVSKIN apart from other skin care and beauty-related businesses in the area and will draw customers into downtown Baltimore.
“Our treatments are progressive rather than aggressive, and I think that clients will appreciate that I can give them that service over time,” she said.
While there are several estheticians operating in the downtown area, Vaughan said that they see themselves as a “tight-knit community” rather than competitors.
“If we can’t provide, we will always refer out,” she said.