I don’t know if I’ve ever frequented an establishment based solely on the color of the owner’s skin but I do know a community, like most everything else, is better served when it is served a variety of cultures, experiences and viewpoints. West Chester is fortunate to have such diversity. We can choose from restaurants, like Miss Winnie’s, that offer authentic Jamaican dishes or Mabel’s, whose juicy barbecue is achieved through generation-held techniques; entertainment, like Diane Matthews School of Dance Arts, whose offerings range from ballet to modern, jazz to hip hop, and salons, like Velvet Hair Studio, mission: “bring natural Texture, enhanced Richness, and Diversity to all hair,” who serve all hair types.
But diversity isn’t guaranteed. Like other aspects of the pandemic, COVID-19 had a disproportionate effect on black-owned businesses. According to a recent article in Forbes magazine, “The number of active Black-owned businesses fell 41% between February and April 2020.” This compares with 22 percent of American small businesses overall.
West Chester is not immune. This summer Heather Bee, local blogger at the “Odd Bee,” pulled together a comprehensive list of black-owned businesses in West Chester but she’s already had to make updates. “Keep in mind [the list] changes all the time,” she told me via email. “I update my list as I find new businesses, and I’ve had to remove a couple that closed since I first made the list.”
To ensure West Chester remains a rich, diverse marketplace, support can’t come once a year (cough) Black History Month (cough). We need to stand by these neighbors year round – patronizing, of course, but there are other ways to show support, too. You can follow your favorites on social media, spread the word among family and friends, write a constructive review or invent a reason to celebrate. If we can, and happily do, celebrate National Margarita Day on the 22 of February, there is nothing stopping us from having summer barbecue in March.
Special thanks to Heather for letting me excerpt her list for this post. You can find the complete (and continually updated) list here.
Black-Owned Businesses in the Borough of West Chester
214 W. Washington St.
Yarnall’s Garage provides five star auto repair with a focus on customer service – right here in the borough. So if you’re local no need to arrange a drop off and pick up ride (yes, this is where my mind goes). Plus, Yarnall’s has a looong history in the borough. The garage opened in 1928.
Beauty & Hair
Another Level Barbershop
312 E. Gay Street
According to their Facebook page, Another Level Barbershop has been in business since 1998. Owned by Anthony Johnson, this four chair barbershop is the home of good times, great business, and lasting friendships.
Maple Alley Barbers
537 Maple Alley
Located near West Chester University, the barbers here specialize in fades, blow-outs and beards for any hair types. Latest news and link to book appointments, here.
Velvet Hair Studio
308 E. Gay Street
What a lovely website and I just love the mission of this downtown studio: “Our mission at Velvet is to bring natural Texture, enhanced Richness, and Diversity to all hair.” (Yes, I have included it twice in this post.) You can learn more and schedule an appointment here.
Little Faces Childcare Center
Little Faces Childcare Center is a full service year-round childcare center serving children, infants through 12 years. The center was opened 10 years ago after owner Tonya Wells noticed that the west end of the Borough was lacking in childcare services for families. Learn more about Tonya and Little Faces here.
Editor’s note: I went off list of this one, so I can’t say there aren’t other black-owned daycares in the area. I just happen to know this one is.
Events and Entertainment
Diane Matthews School of Dance
315 Westtown Road, Suite 9
The studio is led by the much accomplished Diane Matthews who began her career studying at the Philadelphia School of Dance Arts and has danced professionally as a featured solo ballerina for the Philadelphia Civic Ballet Company. But despite her rigorous training background, the school creates an inviting atmosphere for students to learn. As one patron put it, “It is a friendly and welcoming environment to learn dance, which can be quite rare.”
Diane and her talented team also run West Chester Dance Works, a 501C-3 organization, dedicated to bringing the many benefits of dance to all.
125 N. Church Street
Located on Church Street right next to Kooma, LeBerger is an accessories retailer focusing on delivering high-quality merchandise at an attainable price point. Stock turns over regularly so there are always new treats to explore, plus 10 percent of all online purchases go to helping West African women and children escape domestic violence.
821 Lincoln Ave.
According to their website, Truth Gym offers specialized personal training designed to help members change their lives for the better by achieving their fitness results and health goals. But note this is a members-only club and that membership is by invitation only. No word on whether that invitation comes with a jacket. Have questions? Submit them here.
“Everything we do is done with good taste and our customers’ enjoyment in mind. Nothing pleases us more than happy people!”Bert Johnston, Head Chef, Miss Winnies
211 E. Market Street
Winning Best of the Mainline in 2018, 2019, and 2020, Miss Winnie’s has been the area’s go-to place for Jamaican and Caribbean cuisine since it opened in 2017. Go for the Jerk Chicken sandwich, stay for the plantain tarts. See their full menu here.
Lorenzo’s Steaks & Hoagies: the Big Meat on Market Street
216 E. Market Street
The original West Chester Lorenzo’s is a deli-style sandwich shop located on the east end of Market Street near the old train station. Featuring classic hoagies piled high, if you want to partake you’ll have to call, 610-696-5400. No online ordering here.
607 E. Market Street
Mabel’s Barbeque has earned a reputation for quality barbecue never rushed. Each batch is seasoned with a rich dry-rub and smoked for four hours to release the flavor and “unlock the goodness.” Getting hungry? Here’s the menu to get you started.
Scoops ‘n’ Smiles
6 E. Gay Street
Newcomer Scoops ‘n’ Smiles opened less than a year ago but they have already wiggled their way into my kids’ hearts with their large selection of homemade ice cream and ice flavors. I don’t mind. While I personally love the sophistication of our gelato options, it’s nice to have an ice cream place in town again. Especially one that does it as well as Scoops ‘n’ Smiles.