Photo Courtesy of Paula Phounsavath
Paula Phounsavath | Editor-in-Chief
Norfolk locals came together in the early evening to enjoy the late summer weather of August’s ‘First Friday’ 16-block party for the first time in two years. The event held various local business vendors from the Selden Market and Granby St. such as Norfolk Smoothies, Petit à Petit Lingerie, Vessel Craft Coffee, Polished Concrete Jewelry and more.
Party-goers above 21 were able to carry alcoholic drinks throughout the blocks from local restaurant vendors. Some carried drinks from a plastic cup, and some patrons also carried their drinks with pink mini-flamingo holders. At the end of each block, there were numerous people dancing under the sound of loud music.
Nearly no one had their masks on. People walked up and down the blocks of Granby St. and Main St. mingling, while some sat at the outdoor bars on the sidewalk. During those moments, the world seemed normal all over again. It seemed that there was no reason to fear the COVID-19 delta variant.
It was about time that local residents from Norfolk and Virginia Beach came together to enjoy this leisure. Traditionally, cities would often have a ‘First Fridays’ during the first week of the month to highlight its nightlife, tourist attractions and also their local businesses. Because of the pandemic, everything took a halt.
Fashion Institute of Technology alumni and owner of Petit à Petit Lingerie Boutique, Nicole Dortch, had her table set up with spa products and to-go undergarments. The boutique sells intimate apparel for women and men, with a diverse array of sizes. She emphasizes her pride being from the 757 and starting her business here,
“There’s no other place I would rather be than here.” She says. “I take pride in my customers and my clients are number one because they are the heartbeat of my whole entire operation. From listening to them, doing bra-fitting, just for them to come [to] the shop or even ask, ‘what’s a good place to eat?’ or ‘where to get the best drinks from?’ It’s that community support and community love is pretty much like what’s [sic] number one for me.”
The brand even offers internships to college students throughout the academic year. While owning a lingerie boutique can raise eyebrows to certain employers, Dortch says that the internship teaches the students about the importance of the intimate apparel industry, but also leadership, retail management and operations.
“It’s a community whole of what we do,” Dortch explains. “We actually help people build resumes. What you work on in the store is all resume material, so we actually help build your resume to look at what degree that you’re working on and we tailor your projects towards that degree.”
Another table set up nearby Dortch’s was a jewelry line called Polished Concrete. Founded by Brittney Mayes last year, the goal of the line was to help with her grandmother's diagnosis with Alzheimer’s. Not only does Mayes have a background in jewelry design but she also has a strong background in construction management.
“Ultimately, the goal is to raise money to be able to build Alzheimer’s facilities.” Mayes says. “We want to be able to renovate home care patients because there’s no insurance for the disease and things of that nature.”
Mayes also wants to be the one to open the doors for young girls in STEM and internship opportunities at her brand.
“There were a lot of doors that closed for me because I was artsy and didn’t fit the stereotypical engineer look.” She explained. “If I could provide that resource, because I didn’t have that resource, my journey was trial and error, but if I’m able to share my experiences, my skill sets and my time to people who were like me and [sic] students who were like me, that’s really the end goal.”
Mayes says of her brand being a part of the 757, “I feel good saying it’s handmade locally. Even though the first year was ground work, we want to build our customer base here. It’s for one thing when you want to put things online, but you can’t see people and you can’t touch it, feel it or understand the story.”
Mayes adds, “We are really hands-on. We really want to keep growing and letting people know that 757 is kind of where it's at.”
Aziz Winfield, owner of Norfolk Smoothies, was also featured in the “Winter 2021 Issue.” He had his store renovated back in April and continues to be the upbeat and positive person the Mace and Crown met back in February for the magazine.
The one thing that has changed is the store’s interior. It was no longer yellow or conjoined with a confectionery shop; in fact, it had its own menu full of newer items and a plant-covered wall.
“We are in the process of changing the menu, so we added one through five detox kits and now we’re in the process of trying to add different vendors in the area that do meal preps.” He shares.
Winfield’s mission still remains the same with the brand, pushing the “Health Vibes” to the Norfolk community.
These events for local businesses not only help promote their brands, but also are a way to give back to their community. They are often ambitious and willing to let anyone help them because of the strong shift of support nowadays. With the pandemic hopefully coming to a happy ending, ‘First Fridays’ will now represent new beginnings and happier moments in time.