PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Nikeisah Newton said there’s not many people who walk into a strip club and leave with money, but that’s something she gets to do quite often.
Newton owns and is the chef at Meals 4 Heels, a late-night meal delivery service for Portland’s sex workers. On Monday, she opened her business’ first brick-and-mortar location where she’ll serve food to everyone in the community.
“Today we’re here celebrating everything wonderful and delicious in Portland,” she said. “If you’re hungry, you want delicious food with a purpose and food with soul, then come down, come join us, come eat with us.”
Newton held her grand opening during the Come Thru Market, a twice-monthly farmers market for Black and Indigenous farmers and makers. The event was buzzing with music and customers and dozens of booths.
Newton, a Black woman, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony where she stood in front of the crowd and said, “A lot of us aren’t supposed to be here. They don’t represent people that look like us in these situations and these places, so thank you for showing up.”
Newton founded Meals 4 Heels in January 2019 when her partner at the time was employed as a sex worker while also going to school full-time and working at an internship. Newton would cook meals for her and deliver them to her partner’s workplace. After a while, the meals started to catch the eye of her partner’s coworkers.
Newton made the menu with sex workers and dancers in mind and goes easy on the onions and garlic in the dishes, which are entirely vegan and vegetarian.
“I think with 75+ strip clubs in Portland, it only made sense to have a commodity like this in Portland. It’s showing my appreciation. It’s putting a bright light on sex work and it’s giving them the respect that they deserve,” she said.
Newton said she’s received a lot of praise from sex workers around the world and gets emotional when she thinks about it.
“I thought going in that people would look at me differently or question my motives or question ‘What is sex work?’ and I do get that, but it’s been only positive,” she said.
In addition to serving sex workers, Newton has also provided meals to frontline workers during the pandemic and has worked with several organizations around Portland including The Oregon Food Bank, JOIN, the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, and Don’t Shoot Portland.
She hopes this new brick and mortar location will allow her to expand the hours she’s able to deliver meals for sex workers, provide more jobs in the community, and make her more available to help local non-profits.
In June, Newton also hopes to start collaborating with farmers at the Come Thru market and make specials that include the produce they grow or the products they make.
Newton said Meals 4 Heels all started with her decision to take a chance on a business idea and so far, it’s working for her.
“We’re just trying to build a community that I want to live in. And so, I’m doing that through food,” she said.