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.”
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.”
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.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.