Here in Frederick County, we’re proud to have small business owners with a wide range of stories, life experiences, and backgrounds. As we strive to become more economically inclusive, we’re working to make sure that our diverse business owners’ voices are heard. Today we want to highlight some of our business owners who have disabilities. Each person has a unique story to tell, and each is bringing huge value to our community.
In 2016, Nikki Reineck and her sister were stay-at-home moms and had a friend who successfully sold clothing through a direct sales clothing line. They thought it looked fun and decided they’d try it too.
Three years later, that fun idea turned into a successful direct sales business. From there, Nikki decided to take it to the next level. So Nikki flew to California, purchased merchandise, and started offering clothing online through her own store. Her online store did very well, building up a customer base. She sold her products through American Sign Language to others in the deaf community. Nikki’s next goal was to continue to grow a customer base in the hearing community. The best way to do that, she decided, was to open up a storefront in Frederick.
A Frederick native, Nikki had relocated to Indiana so that her son could attend a program there. So when a storefront opened up in Frederick in August 2020, Nikki’s sister joined her in the new venture and became the store’s manager, Sisters in Style. Nikki shares that one of the best things about opening Sisters in Style in Frederick is interacting with the Frederick community and reaching more customers in person.
One of their primary goals is to create an inclusive environment where everyone feels welcome. Their motto is: “No one is left out.” They make it a priority to offer sizes from small to 3XL so that everyone can find their clothing side.
A graduate of the Maryland School of Deaf, all of her employees are also deaf. They engage with hearing customers by writing notes.
For members of the deaf community, she wants them to know that you don’t need to be hearing to run a business and that your disability doesn’t have to be a barrier. Technology can really be a helpful tool - take it and run with it!
“Basically, you have to take risks. And when you take risks, you learn from it. You can also look at any negative as a positive if you think outside of the box!” Nikki says.
During the Christmas season, Sisters in Style is serving hot cocoa with chocolate balls to all their customers, so come on by the store at 116 N East Street. Follow them on Instagram @SISFREDERICK for updates!
When Marién Hornyak reached the end of her grant-funded position, she was faced with one question: “What do I do now?”
Being blind, Marién was in a unique position. She needed to be in a place that she could easily get to, and all of the jobs coming her way were in unrealistic locations for her.
So, Marién identified downtown Frederick’s need for a kitchen supply shop… and The Kitchenette was born.
The Kitchenette prides itself on its personalized service. Marién says: “When you buy a spatula, I don’t just ring you up, I tell you what the best use of the spatula is… Or if it’s the last minute and you’re looking for a special Christmas gift for Aunt Sue, and all you know is ‘she likes to bake,’ I’ll help you find the perfect gift for her.” They also have many unique items you can’t find at bigger stores, many of them made in the U.S.
Marién is also making a name for herself on TikTok (@Theblindkitchenlady), where she has over 9,000 followers and has received over a quarter-million views. In her videos, she shares about the spectrum for blindness, creating more disability awareness. By making these videos, she’s learned a lot about handling comments or questions for her about her disability. She shares this advice with people with disabilities:
“You have to have a sense of humor. Be productive in your answers, educate, advocate, and you can’t take anything too personally. It’s all in how you, as a disabled person, handle other people’s comments. With 9,000 followers on TikTok, none of my followers have ever been hateful.”
When asked if there’s anything she’d like her customers to know, she says that it doesn’t really matter if a customer knows if she is blind or not -- because hopefully, they will treat her the same way regardless. But if you’re interested in understanding more about the blindness spectrum, check out her videos on Instagram. (And, it’s a big help if you put things back where you found them.)
She invites you to come into The Kitchenette to get those last-minute gifts and personalized suggestions. And if you’re looking to make Christmas cookies, The Kitchenette has the biggest cookie cutter selection in the state of Maryland. Visit them at 217 North Market Street.
Chuck Banks, a disabled veteran, has a sunny outlook on life: he says, “Follow your heart and create something you love to do, and you’ll never work another day in your life.”
That’s what his business, Wander Hemp Company, is for him.
Chuck discovered hemp products when his mother was sick a few years ago. He saw how hemp helped her with her battle with cancer, so he wanted to get these products out to help more people. But Chuck found a lot of CBD products with ingredient disclosure problems; the label would say one thing, but it may or may not have been correct.
“We knew that we could do it better.”
Looking to be more transparent with ingredients and products, Chuck and his partners created Wander Hemp Company. Their products include only the most effective active ingredients -- without any fillers, preservatives, or additives for color or taste. Chuck has taken his passion for CBD’s health benefits and made it his mission to get the best quality products out there -- to the Frederick community and beyond.
What motivates him as a business owner -- even during a global pandemic -- is that he does it for the community. Their customers are seen as family. Chuck shares: “We appreciate the Wander Family and their support, and we want to keep growing and growing, and for them to grow with us.”
Visit Wander Hemp Company at 27 South Market Street to check out their high-quality hemp products that can support your healing and wellness needs.