Next Man Up owner Marva Rodgers-Cooksey. Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago

BRONZEVILLE — With the city reopened, Marva Rodgers-Cooksey is eager to grow her little-known business creating an urban oasis for a group often overlooked when it comes to pampering: Black men.

The Next Man Up spa, 946 E. 43rd. St., brings a Downtown experience to Bronzeville, Rodgers-Cooksey said. It caters to all men, from those unaccustomed to the world of self-care to seasoned veterans who know their “Brazilians” from their “Hollywoods.” From the faint scent of sandalwood, to the dark interior and even the businesses’ logo — the colors represent Black Greek fraternities— every aspect of the space is carefully thought out.

The Gresham native spent 37 years as a pharmacist, and she opened Next Man Up after going back to school for massage therapy at the Soma Institute.

“When I designed this place, I made sure that it touched on the five senses, because that’s how you get people,” Rodgers-Cooksey said. “It was a labor of love trying to find this space.”

Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago
Next Man Up, a spa for men, opened in Bronzeville in 2019.

Rodgers-Cooksey knew she wanted to open the spa on the South Side, narrowing down her decision to two retail corridors: 47th Street and 43rd Street. After seeing a “For Sale” sign on a 2,500-square-foot storefront kitty-corner from her favorite restaurant, Norman’s Bistro, she knew it was “nothing but God.”

Rodgers-Cooksey opened in fall 2019 to little fanfare, relying on word-of-mouth and online customer reviews. When the pandemic hit, she was forced to close, but she weathered the storm with a grant from the Urban League and assistance from the Small Business Association’s Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan.

Though Rodgers-Cooksey also offers services to women, she wants to make sure men — specifically Black men — had a place to indulge themselves.

“If there is anyone stressed out in this world, it is Black men. There’s no other place like this where they can learn about self-care and be treated like the kings they are,” said Rodgers-Cooksey, who added she typically receives calls from wives looking to book services for their husbands. “Self-care isn’t even on their radar.”

Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago
Next Man Up’s manicure/pedicure station.

Massages average $95, with manicures and pedicures running $60. Rodgers-Cooksey also offers free massage therapy to veterans through the VA hospital and accepts most insurance.

With Father’s Day approaching, Rodgers-Cooksey is opening her doors Sunday to dads looking for a little TLC. She has a special discount to those who call to make an appointment.

Next Man Up was recently approved for a liquor license, and Rodgers-Cooksey hopes to start offering spirits as early as next week. She also has a few surprises in store for Bronzeville Summer Nights, the summer event series set to return this year.

“This is where I was meant to be. This is home,” Rodgers-Cooksey said. “I’m really looking forward to servicing more men and promoting self-care.”

Next Man Up is by appointment-only Mondays and open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Fridays and 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays at 946 E. 43rd St. It is closed Thursdays, Sundays and some holidays.

The spa’s offerings and other information are available online.

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