Philly’s coronavirus response

The coronavirus won’t stop these South Street business owners

Meet five local proprietors who aren’t willing to let the pandemic derail their dreams.

southstreet-twilight
Flickr Creative Commons / Mike Klubok
michaelawinberg-square-crop-feb2018

💌 Love Philly? Sign up for the free Billy Penn email newsletter to get everything you need to know about Philadelphia, every day.


South Street’s popularity has fluctuated over the years, but it’s still one of Philly’s most robust small business hubs. To help spotlight the 400 or so independent operators there — who, like many others, have had a rough time trying to survive the pandemic — the local biz association started a new online project.

To help get word out about these spots, the South Street Headhouse District is publishing weekly bios that tell each proprietor’s unique story.

Photographer Andrea Cipriani Mecchi, who’s become known during the pandemic for her socially distant portraits, was enlisted to provide photos for the pieces. A new set of blurbs goes up every Thursday, featuring a few lines about the business and how the owner got into the game.

We recapped five of these great stories below (find the rest of them here).

Repo Records

506 South St., 215-627-3775

Dan Matherson’s been slinging records for nearly 40 years. He opened the first iteration of Repo Records in Wayne, Pa., in 1986, with the name inspired by the 1984 cult favorite movie “Repo Man.” He became known for his collection, offering new wave, punk and other underground artists that mainstream shops hadn’t yet discovered.

It took Matherson just a few years to realize what we all ultimately do: Philly is where he belonged. He moved his shop to South Street about two decades ago, and turned it into a must-visit stop for anyone into vinyl.

The storefront is currently open for business (masks required).

Another Planet Barbershop

808 South St., 215- 800-1510

Jacque’ “Sci-Fi” Scott’s South Street barbershop came together after a series of broken dreams.

She was crushed in 2013 when Temple’s women’s basketball team wouldn’t take her as a walk-on player — meaning she’d likely never fulfill her goal of playing for the WNBA. One year later, she got into a car accident and suffered a severe brain injury that put her in a four-day coma.

After miraculously surviving, Sci-Fi refocused on a new project. In 2016, she opened her own barbershop at 8th and South. If you’ve never been, you gotta check it out. It’s an immersive, other-worldly salon with an outer space theme, movies and music videos playing on a projector wall, and plenty of glow-in-the-dark accessories.

Services are currently available by appointment, with mandatory mask-wearing and time to disinfect between each customer.

O’Neals Pub

611 S. 3rd St., 215-574-9495

The owner of this 3rd and South tavern just goes by Spoonie, and he got his start at O’Neals working as a doorman on St. Patrick’s Day in 1996.

In Philadelphia, the Irish holiday is not for the faint of heart. Spoonie fit right in. “As I looked around the packed pub that day,” he says on the district site, “I knew that the pub would be my new home!” O’Neals is celebrating its 40-year anniversary — which the proprietor says makes it the longest-running family-owned Irish pub in the neighborhood.

There’s a back patio open for outdoor dining, and takeout is also available.

Fine Custom Tailoring

751 S. 4th St., 215-627-7668

Larnell Baldwin’s Queen Village storefront isn’t his first foray into the tailoring biz. He started sewing way back in high school, more than 40 years ago, and then he taught the trade in private classes for years after that.

After opening his first tailor shop called Sartorial in another neighborhood, Baldwin decided to relocate. It was successful, but he thought he could make a better living on Fabric Row — so he opened two storefronts there. Now the lifelong tailor sells fabric, teaches classes and offers services from 4th and Fitzwater.

The shop was damaged and nearly cleaned out during the mayhem that followed early protests, but fans and supporters donated more than $30,000 for repairs.

Neighborhood Ramen

617 S. 3rd St.

Lindsay Steigerwald and Jesse Pryor first started making ramen in their West Philly apartment just because they liked to eat it.

Each time, the serving yielded too much for two people — so they invited groups of friends and called the regular hangouts “neighborhood ramen socials.”

Eventually they made an Instagram for these gatherings, which raked in thousands of followers. The two accidental ramen chefs were then invited to do pop-ups at Philly restaurants, and eventually opted to open their own brick and mortar. After traveling Japan for a month to learn some new recipes, the duo opened their Queen Village shop in January 2019.

They’re currently doing takeout pop-ups; follow on Instagram for details.

Want some more? Explore other Philly’s coronavirus response stories.

Thanks for reading another Billy Penn story

Find everything you need to know about Philly, every day — in clear, direct language, like a good friend might say.

No clickbait, no cliffhangers: the Billy Penn morning newsletter.

Thanks for supporting Billy Penn!

Test your local knowledge — join us for the next Philly Quizzo virtual event, or take the quiz online.

Lock in your support

Reader support powers our local pandemic reporting. A monthly membership helps lock it in.

Can we count on you as a Billy Penn sustainer?