Miguel & Tony Nieves
Champions Barber Shop 304 S. High St. 22 W. Chestnut St. Tropical Homemade Ice Cream 125 N. Church St.
THE NIEVES BROTHERS’ ENTHUSIASM FOR COMMUNITY BUILDING IS CONTAGIOUS. ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: HABANERO
If you’ve ever crossed the WCU campus, you may have heard Habanero playing a Latin-themed Michael Jackson cover. Their work is precise, reminiscent of the Gypsy Kings, and it’s always interesting to see stand-up bass being played in the middle of a lawn. Their ten members comprise Juan Puppo, and Valerie Ortiz as the vocalists, Anthony Cherego on the saxophone, Cliff Morin on the ewi, Pat Crider on the trombone, Shane Mulligan and Ted Vaillant on percussion instruments, Tom Lombard on the stand-up bass, and Ian Sadock on the ivories (piano for the layman). Eduardo Sinay, besides also being a part of the percussion section, is also the bandleader. If you’d like to hear (and see) Habanero, you can look them up on Youtube, or follow the link from their Facebook page facebook.com/HabaneroMusic.
On a snowy Saturday afternoon, Champions Barber Shop on Chestnut Street is hopping. Men of every age—from 12 to 70—pack the waiting area as the four stylists finesse razor-sharp edges into hairlines and beards, all the while managing the incessantly ringing phone in a smooth, choreographed motion. An autographed satin robe emblazoned with “ROY JONES JR.” in orange block letters hangs on the wall inside the door, a poignant metaphor for Miguel Nieves’ business philosophy. “It’s not just a haircut. When I named my business Champions I meant it. If you work for me, you represent my brand and who I am. I’m a family guy, and we are very family-oriented here. Everyone respects that about me.” Miguel’s foray into entrepreneurialism began with a mobile endeavor called On the Run Barber Shop, which serviced nursing homes, prisons and funeral homes. While volunteering his services at the Hickman, he met Nancy Wilkinson, who at the time ran a dog grooming shop housed in Champions’ Chestnut Street location. “This location has a long history as a barber shop,” Miguel relates. “It was an Italian shop, an African American shop, and then Nancy’s dog grooming shop. When she mentioned it would be closing, she put me in the right spot with the owner to open a shop myself.” Champions officially opened in November 2010, followed by a second location on High Street in January 2014. In June of last year, Miguel’s older brother Tony became a business owner here too, launching Tropical Homemade Ice Cream just around the corner from Champions on Chestnut. Their aunt, who owns La Micho-
acana Homemade Ice Cream in Kennett Square, is Tony’s business partner. “I thought West Chester would be such a great place to have a homemade ice cream shop, and she agreed,” he says. “Many of our flavors come from Hispanic and Mexican culture. Corn, mango, coconut are all flavors we have in Puerto Rico. I thought they would go very well here in West Chester, too.” Miguel’s next project is a barber school near the university which he hopes to open in March. Students will benefit from the discounted rates on services, while the barbers-in-training will benefit from the experience of working on the different types of hair in the diverse student population. The Nieves brothers’ enthusiasm for community building is contagious. Their neighbor, Fenn’s Coffee, even named a drink after them. “We tell our clients to go there and get one after their haircut,” says Miguel. “Ask for ‘The Champion.’”
EVERYTHING IS MADE FROM SCRATCH HERE.” — SIMI SAINI
Surjit & Tarlochan Singh and Simi Saini
Star of India, 155 W. Gay St. The heady smell of curry suffuses the corner of Gay and Darlington Streets on a weekday evening in late December, offering a warm counterpoint to the bone-chilling weather. Inside the Star of India, pale pink walls and soft lighting evoke a sense of reverence as two couples speak in hushed tones over their food. Surjit Singh fell in love with West Chester during his daily commute from the family home in Delaware to the Indian restaurant in Phoenixville where he was cooking. Someday, he thought, he’d open a restaurant of his own right here in town.
JANUARY 2017 THEWCPRESS.COM
Voice of the Borough