An inside look into some of Kingston’s Black-owned businesses

Three Kingston locals share their experiences running a business

Supporting local Kingston businesses is important.
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Each fall, Kingston’s businesses open up their doors to thousands of students who travel back to the city for the school year. 

If you’re returning to Kingston this fall or arriving for the very first time, it’s the perfect opportunity to get to know some of the city’s local small businesses. As vital components of the local economy, it’s important to think about who you’re supporting and consider investing in a local business which is working towards bettering the Kingston community.

The Journal spoke to three Black business owners in the Kingston area about how they got started.

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Cher Mere Day Spa isn’t just an average run-of-the-mill spa. Run by Aba Mortley, the spa is building on a 35-year legacy in Mortley’s family.

“My family, we make all the products that we use,” Mortley said. “We bring them from Trinidad, and that’s what we use at the spa.”

Mortley has been learning to run a spa since childhood. Cher Mere’s first location has been operated by Mortley’s family in Trinidad for decades, and she grew up involved in every aspect of what it takes to run her family business.

Through those experiences, Mortley not only became knowledgeable about what it takes to run a spa, but how to build on its foundation in her own business. Cher Mere’s all-natural products are directly influenced by her family. 

“I was inspired by my grandmother, who was an esthetician, to make more kinds of natural Caribbean products that didn’t have so [many] chemicals in them,” Mortley told The Journal

As a business owner, Mortley knows how important it is to do something you love. To her, that’s the best part.

“My hours are long, but they’re filled with things that I like. I get to spend time with my kids. I get to volunteer and be a part of the community.” 

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For Carolyn Barnett, being a business owner has been a lifetime of hard work. 

Her one-woman knitting and feltwork business began after she left her job as a nursery school teacher to work at an art gallery in Toronto. When Barnett started hearing of craft and gallery shows, she made the choice to put her lifelong love of knitting out into the world.

“I decided to create a [knitted garment] line and apply and go into business, and that was 1982,” Barnett said. “I went and registered my name, Carolyn M. Barnett Designs, and the rest is history.”

For the last 38 years, Barnett has made a name for herself through knitting, but it was only 13 years ago that she fell in love with felting. 

A unique challenge with running your own business is that life can get in the way of work. After finishing chemotherapy treatment for cancer in 2007, she found a felting workshop to attend to help find her footing.

“I went to it, and when my husband picked me up, I just said, ‘I’m back.’”

Operating a business for so many years, Barnett has learned to evolve with the times—she was working on updating her website earlier this summer. 

“Doing a website is creative, too. Colour, shape, design, that kind of thing.”

Barnett encouraged anyone wanting to become a self-made artist to take the leap, but shouldn’t expect anything to happen overnight. But if the passion is there, she advised to do whatever’s possible to make it happen.

“Find a way to do it and do it. Even if it means you’re eating ramen noodles, or if it means you’re only on a bicycle,” Barnett said. “I just did it.”

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Jonathan Daniel, or JD, is in the business of healing. 

After opening up the first JD Physiotherapy five years ago, there are now three clinics in operation between Kingston and Napanee. 

JD recognizes that the work he does isn’t easy, and it comes with a lot of responsibility. His passion for healing people is necessary to do his job effectively.

“Every day you will see people in need and in pain,” JD said. “You have to always be ready and willing to help and put aside issues you may be facing in order to help them. It’s not easy, but people are choosing to come to you for help and therefore you must always be ‘on’ and ready to give.”

JD’s understanding of what it means to be a physiotherapist comes from his own past. 

“As a former student athlete, I sustained many injuries along the way.” JD said. “Physio treatments have always helped get me back on the court. When patients come to me, I can really understand what they are feeling in terms of pain because most likely I have experienced their physical pain in the past.” 

As a business owner, what JD loves most is being able to provide jobs for his staff members, who share his passion for creating a community that’s happy, healthy, and active. A love for the Kingston community is what drives the work being done at JD Physiotherapy. 

“I promise to continue to provide the best physio services in Kingston and Napanee for years to come,” JD said. “During these uncertain times we have felt nothing but love from the community.”

 

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