They are community gathering spots, places where we go not only to feel pampered, but to revel in a sense of camaraderie and normalcy.
When businesses shut down as a result of COVID-19 back in March, perhaps none was missed more than the local barbers and stylists up and down Ridge Avenue. Locals went shaggy and even gray waiting for their favorite stylists to return.
For more than a month now, Roxborough’s barbershops and salons have been buzzing here, reopened at the end of June to customers who excitedly anticipated their return. Two of those beloved shops, Joe’s Throwback Barber Shop (6802 Ridge Avenue) and Salon A’Marie (5261 Ridge Avenue), reopened with dramatic expansions to better serve the community.
Things are a bit different inside the shops with more restrictions and sanitizing, but Roxborough customers who remained loyal during the quarantine shutdowns, buying gift certificates and calling to lend their emotional support to owners are returning for much-needed trims and colors – and getting a huge surprise when they see the shops.
“The response has been amazing... all the support this community has given,” said Joe’s Throwback Barber Shop owner Joe Evearts of his customers at the shop at the corner of Ridge and Parker. “It’s like a meeting place. It’s sort of like a community center. People come in and talk and you just know everyone. Roxborough is like a little village.”
“It’s like a meeting place. It’s sort of like a community center. People come in and talk and you just know everyone. Roxborough is like a little village.”
Right now, that’s what Joe’s and other shops are for local clients: emotional support during a rough time and a chance to return to a sense of normalcy in a chaotic world.
“Who is around you more than your significant other or your children? Your stylist!” said Evearts of the close personal relationship with clients. “There’s a bond between a client and hair stylist.”
Evearts opened his barber shop back in 2015 after falling in love with the location. He found the vacant shop while his son was at a dental appointment at Doc Bresler’s Cavity Busters across the street. He grew up cutting hair for his friends and made it a career by the time he was 20. Evearts owned a shop in Fitler Square, then managed a barber shop in Northeast Philadelphia until he saw the Ridge Avenue shop and decided it was time to open his own place again.
“I was standing there on Ridge and was watching all the traffic go by and I said, ‘ This might be the place’.”
Three months later, Evearts was in the building. For five years, he maintained a loyal following with only three seats in the 300-square-foot location. But customers were in for a surprise when he reopened this June after the shutdown. He’d been busy expanding his shop because he is committed to staying in the community.
He extended the shop area into the back and now has 1,200 square feet and five chairs. He now also serves women for cuts and colors, though he’s only been doing cuts – a lot of cuts – since the reopening.
“There are so many restrictions,” Evearts said. “It takes one barber 45 to 50 minutes for one customer. We have to wipe everything down, wear masks, sanitize.”
But despite the new policies, customers are coming in droves, thrilled to be back, he said. “They are just happy to be in the room,” Evearts said. “There is a sense of normalcy in just being there again.”
“They are just happy to be in the room. There is a sense of normalcy in just being there again.”
To accommodate all those locals who were in need of a cut, and to best utilize all his new space, Evearts has expanded his hours and is open seven days a week for the first time ever. He’s now anxiously awaiting the return of college students to the area to get back up to full speed.
Further down Ridge near Manayunk Avenue, Salon A’Marie underwent a metamorphosis of its own during the pandemic. Back in 2013, owner Aundrea Watkins chose a cozy Mitchell Street location as the site of her first salon. Now she has moved onto Ridge Avenue to take advantage of a much larger space and added foot traffic.
“I was in the process of closing the other [Mitchell Street] salon to move and then the pandemic happened,” said Watkins, who prides herself on her natural hair care and healthy hair products. “I needed a larger space where I could have more exposure.”
Watkins' clients, accustomed to the 300-square-foot space on Mitchell St. were blown away in July when she unveiled her new Ridge Avenue shop, a 1,000-square foot salon with four styling chairs and an added skin care area for facials and waxing. “I have more room to grow more or to hire more stylists,” she said. “The exposure on Ridge is great and the bus line literally stops in front of the salon.”
“I have more room to grow more or to hire more stylists.
The exposure on Ridge is great and the bus line literally stops in front of the salon.”
When her clients did return, it was both for much-need hair trims as well as her signature blow-outs and deep conditioning treatments. Her Ultimate Restoration Treatment, which applies an Olaplex treatment to repair damaged hair, has been in high demand.
“I think everyone was concerned about conditioning treatments,” Watkins said.
Though she has to take temperatures when clients arrive and sanitize heavily in between appointments, clients have generally just been “relieved” to be back, she said.
“In general, I feel like salons are a place you can come and socialize and especially during the pandemic, I think it’s been a relief for them to come and get their hair done,” she said. “Just to have some time away from the stresses of life.”
“ I think it’s been a relief for clients to come and get their hair done. Just to have some time away from the stresses of life.”
Joe's Throwbacks Barbershop is located at 6802 Ridge Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19128
Monday: Closed Tuesday: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Thursday: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Friday: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday: 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Salon A'Marie is located at 5261 Ridge Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19128
Hours are: Monday: Closed
Tuesday: Closed Wednesday: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Sunday: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.