Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

All in the family

Three businesses weave food, events and recognition together
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The owners of Red Door Creative Space in front of the location in downtown Peekskill. From left, Asia Murrell, Muhammed Patterson, Naheem Gross, Pernell Gross and Miriam Guerrero. (Photo by Regina Clarkin)

Carol Dunkley, her sons Pernell and Naheem Gross and both of their partners, and her 72 year-old mummie (mother) Avis Dunkley give new meaning to the phrase “family business.” Each branch of the Dunkley-Gross clan runs an organization that contributes to the growth and betterment of the local community. 

Carol is founder and president of Unlabelled Awards, which recognizes community heroes. Pernell and Naheem own and operate the Red Door Creative Space (1016 Brown Street) with partner Muhammed Patterson, a multipurpose event space that supports and connects local innovators. And Mummie Avis puts a fire in you, literally: Avis and Pernell run Mummie’s Jerk Sauce out of Avis’s home in Peekskill, which is sure to spice up any meal. These three local enterprises all belong to what Carol describes as, “one family unit”, and they all share in the mission of bringing Peekskill together.

The family originally hails from Jamaica. Following her father, Carol came to the United States as an infant with her mother and sister. She grew up in Ossining, and has been a Peekskill resident since 1998. Some of her favorite local events are the Juneteenth celebration and the many community happenings held at the riverfront park. “Peekskill is a beautiful place,” Carol said, “and if we all come together as one it can be even more beautiful.”

So, Carol founded the Unlabelled Awards in 2013. “I wanted to do an event that focuses on the unsung heroes out there. We came up with the name Unlabelled Awards to bring the behind the scenes folks to the forefront.” 

Carol is no stranger to the spotlight, having organized fashion events and taken part as a designer. She delights in celebrating those who might not be the stars of a fashion show by honoring them with the Unlabelled Awards. Unlabelled acknowledges the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes but typically don’t get the recognition they deserve. “This is for the sanitation workers, the secretaries, the makeup artists, the videographers, the nurses – the unsung heroes,” Carol said. 

The 2023 Unlabelled Award ceremony took place in September at the Church of the Holy Apostles in New York City  and featured Carol in the yellow gown and three recipients from Peekskill; they are the last three from right; Sgt. Kahlia Carter, baker Antwoin Gutierrez and coach Craig Jacobs. The seven other awardees are from New York City.

Unlabelled selects honorees through a rigorous process. “It’s all about referrals and research,” Carol explained. “We sit as a group, a collective. We interview our honorees and spend a day with them to see them in action. It is imperative that they are doing good work for the Peekskill community. We celebrate everyday people.”

Pernell and Naheem are building on their mother’s community-first approach at the Red Door Creative Space. They opened the business in August of 2022 with the goal of bringing everyday people physically together to develop their own ideas, celebrate their milestones, and have access to a location that empowers creatives. From photoshoots to podcasts to events, the space is host to myriad activities that connect the people of Peekskill. The Red Door Creative Space is located on the ground floor of the Paramount East. Its entrance is the red door below the mural:  Cross roads: The Meeting and Marketplace. 

Mummie’s Jerk Sauce was born out of Avis’s love of the family bonds created from shared food experiences. At the young age of 5, Avis found her love of working in the kitchen, as well as in the garden, thanks to the household chores she performed with her 13 siblings. 

Pernell Gross and his grandmother Avis show off some of the herbs that have wintered over at their garden on S. Broad Street. (Photo by Regina Clarkin)

As Avis perfected the family jerk sauce recipe over the years, her grandson Pernell saw a business opportunity. In 2022, they decided to share Mummie’s Jerk Sauce with the world. The taste is defined by original Jamaican spices, fresh vegetables, and home-grown Peekskill peppers.

Pernell, who lives with his family at his grandparents house, said he came up with the idea to bottle his grandmother’s jerk sauce when he was in the shower one day. He said he does his best creative thinking there. He’s pointing to the rows of the garden that will have peppers, tomatoes and other vegetables come planting season.  (Photo by Regina Clarkin)

They currently have three flavors they sell online and at local pop-ups in and around Peekskill: Pineapple-Mango, Honey, and the original Jerk Sauce. The business exemplifies the community spirit of the family by inviting people from all over to delight in this celebration of West Indian cuisine.

In addition to running their separate organizations, Carol, Pernell, Naheem, and Avis also work together to support Peekskill. Since 2022, they have organized an annual community Thanksgiving Dinner. The proceedings are truly a family affair. Carol organizes the dinner’s sponsors, donations, and volunteers.

A few days after the Thanksgiving Dinner, Carol visits the businesses who donated food to the event and gives them an Unlabelled certificate of appreciation that they can display in their storefront. One business owner said she was surprised to get thanked with such recognition.

The dinner itself is held at the Red Door Creative Space. Pernell noted that at the 2023 community dinner, “Over 500 families were served. United we stand.” Carol agreed, “There are people out there who need help and we have to think about helping others without expecting anything in return.” The family is also planning an Easter event for the children of Peekskill to be held in March.

These organizations, themselves closely connected by family and community, are always looking for local collaborators to help provide for those in need and honor the people behind the scenes working to make Peekskill stronger. Carol summed it up nicely saying, “We go big. We go all out, so we’re happy to involve anyone and everyone in the community who wants to help. Working together, we prove that Peekskill is a friendly town.”

About the Contributor
Steve Pavlopoulos is a freelance writer, producer and journalist based in Cortlandt. After various stints in music and pop culture-related video programming, he enjoys contributing to local news and covering the people, places and events that make Peekskill a "friendly town" and so much more. A native of Clinton, Connecticut (the Bluefish Capital of the World), Steve graduated from UConn where he definitely did not play basketball (despite attending every home game his freshman year). He is a member of the Board of Trustees at the Hendrick Hudson Free Library and once flew halfway around the world covering a pop superstar's 7 show tour of 7 countries in 7 days.