Local Businesses Owners Supporting the LGBTQ+ Community

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This year, the beginning of Pride Month has seen less in-person engagement as LGBTQ+ festivities pivot online. Local stores, which usually host a megathon of pride-themed events, have also made the online shift, with a virtual version Pride Month being the new way to support the LGBTQ+ community.

But supporting the local community is more than just hosting virtual events. It’s supporting the local LGBTQ+community every day of the year. Of course, there are some local Hoboken + JC businesses that do so and go above and beyond each of the 365 days — read how businesses in Hoboken and Jersey City reformed who they are and what they do to be inclusive of LGBTQ+ identities.

Word Bookstore {123 Newark Avenue, Jersey City}

WORD bookstore Jersey City

Word is a local bookstore that features rainbow and transgender flags hanging in the storefront windows 24/7. In the past few years, Word has ramped up its commitment to diversity and inclusion by putting on prominent display books about people with underrepresented identities, sending newsletters that advocate for social change, and creating an inclusive community through identity-focused programs.

What’s most impressive about Word is that the bookstore has teen and children’s books on relevant topics, including Eda Kaben’s Pink Is For Boys and Rebecca Stead’s The List of Things That Will Not Change. One of Word’s most popular events, however, is its Drag Queen Story Hour, which provides literary and creative programs for kids and teens.

Harmonica Sunbeam, a New Jersey-based drag queen, has read books and led creative lessons at Word Bookstore with Drag Queen Story Hour since 2017. Her presence at this daytime event, she said, challenges stereotypes and barriers that exist for LGBTQ+ workers. Drag queens are known to exist primarily at nightclubs, bars, and adult events, so Drag Queen Story Hour at Word shows that LGBTQ+ culture can exist openly and proudly alongside mainstream culture. 

“I believe that parents bring their kids for a few reasons: to teach their kids to take pride in who they are, to respect others who are different, and for some, to see a role model. We have trans kids that come, kids from same-sex households, and this gives them an opportunity to meet other parents or kids like them,”  Harmonica shared.

Spesh {932 Washington Street, Hoboken}

Spesh, established in 2017, is a genderless barbershop and salon in uptown Hoboken. Steven Torres, owner of Spesh, shared that the LGBTQ+-friendly shop made the transition to genderless services in honor of pride. “We feel gender should not define anyone, whether it’s hair, fashion, lifestyle, or culture,” he said in a post on Instagram.

In the past year, genderless salons have boomed. These LGTBQ+-friendly alternatives to traditional barbershops cut a person’s hair to suit their face shape and personal style rather than following traditional societal values as to what is masculine or feminine. Spesh’s “genderless menu” includes three options to choose from: short hair {anything above the ears}, medium hair {anything below the earlobe}, and long hair {anything touching the shoulders or longer}.

“We owe it to our community to make Hoboken a place where everyone feels welcome,” Steven said.

Read more: Hudson Pride: Serving the LGBTQ+ Population in Hudson County

Six26 {128 Christopher Columbus Drive, Jersey City}

six26 jersey city

Six26 is a local spot for brunch, lunch, dinner, and drinks that is the sister restaurant to The Ashford. Owner Kenneth Caulfield, however, is a straight man who founded his business after feeling inspired by the struggles of the LGBTQ+community.

Caulfield learned how the LGBTQ+ community can become excluded from particular types of local businesses, so he opened Six26 to create a space for all identities—a place where anyone could feel welcomed, accepted, and included. Six26’s name is a reference to June 26th, 2015, the day in which the Supreme Court ruled same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marriage.

Throughout the week, Six26 hosts events, when in-person events can happen, that celebrate LGBTQ+ culture, such as viewings of RuPaul’s Drag Race and brunches led by drag queens. The locale also includes events that reach out to people with intersectional identities, such as with latin music and dancing on Fuego Thursdays.

Hidden Grounds {700 Garden Street, Hoboken + 148 1st Street Jersey City}

Hidden Grounds Coffee LGBTQ+ Supoorter

Hidden Grounds is a local coffee staple that serves bagels, sandwiches, and coffee, with whole, skim, soy, almond, and oat milk options. In the past few years, however, Hidden Grounds has also positioned itself as a clear supporter of the LGBTQ+ community. The coffee shop has hired LGBTQ+ employees, attended local causes, and draped a vibrant rainbow flag in its window as a public demonstration of alliance.

At Hidden Grounds, conversations about diversity and inclusion happen everyday, said Spoorthi Kumar, co-founder and chief executive of Hidden Grounds. “We are always asking ourselves, ‘Are we doing enough? Can we do more? How can we do more?’”

Kumar said putting a focus on diversity started with hiring. “When Hidden Grounds first began, a lot of the hiring process was based on what we needed, but in the past three to four years, we’ve thought deeper about who we are hiring, and why,” she said. In its new hiring process, Hidden Grounds puts a stronger emphasis on an applicant’s personality and character, while still keeping in mind traditional qualifications, such as skill and ability. 

“There’s obviously a financial part to a business, but there’s also the emotional part.” Like some of her employees, she said, “I’m not from the U.S, and I didn’t come from this country, and so I understand the need to have a community.”

Sw3at Sauna {172 Newark Ave 3rd Floor, Jersey City}

sw3at sauna jersey city

Sw3at Sauna is an infrared sauna in downtown Jersey City. Owned by a married LGBTQ+ couple, Sw3at Sauna is not only supporting the local community, but is a part of it. Alyza Brevard-Rodriguez, owner of Sw3at, said, “It is common past practice not to label your business as LGBTQ+ owned or put that information out publicly in fear of potential clients refusing to patronize, but that’s not a business practice we agree with. We openly support the queer community by being a representation of it and speaking to the importance of LGBTQ+ owned businesses.”

Sw3at makes monetary contributions to LGBTQ+ organizations, attends parades/festivals, and is labeled on Yelp as LGBTQ+ owned. In celebration of Pride month, Sw3at offers discounts all month and even changed it water labels to feature rainbows.

“We really just want to do our part in supporting our community and making Hudson County an inclusive place to raise our daughter,” Alyza said.

See more: Six26: Jersey City’s All-Inclusive Bar + Lounge

Atlas Public House {130 Newark Avenue, Jersey City}

Atlas Public House Jersey City LGBTQ+ Supporter

Atlas Public House is an American-style restaurant in downtown Jersey City. It serves dinner and drinks, and also hosts private events. It hosts nights filled with music, poetry, and art empowering women, including jazz nights for LGBTQ+ women. Atlas Public House also hosts events for LGBTQ+ organizations, such as meet-ups for the New Jersey LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

Nimbus Dance Works {165 Newark Avenue, Jersey City}

Nimbus Dance Works Jersey City LGBTQ+ Supporter

Nimbus Dance Works is a dance company in Jersey City. It has live performances, a competitive school, and a touring group. Since it opened, Nimbus has been at the intersection of high-level dance, community engagement, and diverse audiences. The dance company performs work that comments on social and political issues, such as the Lynchtown, Memo, and Bloodlines.

The programming also includes work on LGBTQ+  topics and themes. Nimbus has been involved in annual Hudson County pride festivities, featuring its “Offline Pride” event. In 2019, Nimbus hosted a vogue ball, an event in LGBTQ+ subculture in which people “walk” in different categories for trophies, prizes, and respect.

“Nimbus Dance bridges the gap between world-class performances and community engagement by presenting work that challenges, speaks to, and elevates the core beliefs of its diverse audience,” according to the Nimbus website.

Pint {34 Way Street, Jersey City}

Pint is a gay bar in downtown Jersey City. Established in 1911, Pint serves drinks, has a jukebox that anyone can control, and is a proud supporters of the LGBTQ+ community. TimeOut magazine calls it, “the warmest gay-bar atmosphere in the tristate area.”

Tea NJ {262 Newark Avenue, Jersey City}

tea nj lgbtq+ supporter

Tea NJ is a tea shop that offers bubble tea, almond chai, ginger soy lattes, matcha lattes, and soy lavender lattes, among much more. They are vegan and vegetarian friendly. However, Tea NJ’s connection to the LGBTQ+ community is Elizabeth Schedl, aka chief operating officer of Hudson Pride, a local LGBTQ+ organization right here in Hudson County.

Anchor Therapy {223 Bloomfield Street, Hoboken}

Hoboken Anchor Therapy interior

Anchor Therapy is a mental health therapy practice in downtown Hoboken that specializes LGBTQ+ care. Currently offering telehealth appointments, Anchor Therapy is also running a LGBTQ+ summer teen group with plans to continue that into the fall. They offer assistance to LGBTQ+ clients of all ages.

Know of an LGBTQ+ supportive business to include? We know there are more, these just stuck out to us.

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Written by:

Matthew Cunningham covers local stories on LGBTQ life, city council, local business, inequality, and science. Born in Arkansas, Matthew is a student at Stevens Institute of Technology and a proud gay Hoboken resident. When he isn't dashing to a zoning board meeting or interviewing lawmakers, he enjoys exploring restaurants on Washington Street, scootering on Frank Sinatra Drive, and getting a taste of the big city life.