When you’re strolling down Ridge Avenue you may find yourself being greeted by a warm smile and wave from Jack Wheeler, the undisputed celebrity of Roxborough. For more than 25 years, Wheeler has tirelessly sought to help local businesses, becoming an advocate for keeping small businesses in our town.
Jack Wheeler worked with the beginnings of the Roxborough Development Corporation. He was right hand man to the RDC’s second Executive Director, Bernard Guet, lending a hand to keep businesses going in Roxborough. Wheeler joked when asked why he got involved with the RDC, and said, “He had to, Bernard was going to beat him up if he didn’t.” Wheeler had a mission and sparked a lot of conversations with business owners, persevering to keep as many small businesses as he could in the neighborhood.
As a young man Wheeler was drafted into the Army as a weapon inspector stationed in Alaska, he returned to civilian life to be persuaded by a friend, Lenny Simon to join the world of hairstyling. Little did he know that this decision would lead to a legacy that extended beyond the walls of his salon.
His commitment to excellence led him to study under one of the nation's #1-ranked hairdressers for three consecutive years, honing his skills to perfection. He went so far as to study health and nutrition just so he could try to help people when they brought up various health problems during conversations at the salon. He has always had a knack for making his clients look and feel their best. Even now, he has customers who are willing to travel two hours away just for a haircut with Jack. Wheeler’s daughter Annamarie says, “His clients make a day of it, they will get their hair cut, visit Café Roma for a donut and coffee, and then grab a cheesesteak from Barry’s or Dalessandro’s.”
“His clients make a day of it, they will get their hair cut, visit Café Roma for a donut and coffee, and then grab a cheesesteak from Barry’s or Dalessandro’s.”
What sets Wheeler apart is not just his skill but his unwavering dedication to the community. Despite the changing times, he has kept his prices remarkably affordable, maintaining a connection with his roots and the people he serves. "I like having my business in Roxborough because I know so many people and everyone is always so friendly," declares Wheeler, embodying the warmth and familiarity that define the neighborhood.
"I like having my business in Roxborough because I know so many people and everyone is always so friendly,"
Wheeler was a devoted husband, married to his wife Roe for 51 years. Together they had two daughters and five grandchildren whom he loves deeply. When his grandchildren were young, he always loved to spoil them by taking them into the shops along Ridge Avenue. He would buy them special gifts all while engaging with anyone and everyone he met along the way. As his first grandson Christopher humorously puts it, "I thought Poppy Jack was the mayor of Roxborough, he seemed to know everyone wherever we went in town.” His daughter Annamarie attributes this charm to the "Wheeler Magic," a captivating charisma passed down from Wheeler's mother, Winnie, who was herself a local legend, working as a bartender at a pub on Connaroe and Ridge (no longer there).
"I thought Poppy Jack was the mayor of Roxborough, he seemed to know everyone wherever we went in town.”
Recently, the Roxborough Development Corporation (RDC) seized the opportunity to express gratitude to Jack Wheeler for his quarter-century of service. On November 13th, they surprised him with a celebration, presenting a cake from Café Roma and an engraved watch with the message, "Thank you for your 25 years of service to the RDC." The gesture was a small token of appreciation for Wheeler's relentless efforts to make Roxborough one of the best neighborhoods in Philly.
As Jack Wheeler approaches his 78th birthday at the end of this month, his impact on Roxborough echoes through the decades, a testament to the enduring charm of a man who has not just styled hair but shaped a community. If you have your own tales or memories with Jack Wheeler, share them on social media or email email@example.com to be passed them along to his family.