Local business and consumer news. Openings, closings, deals, sales, what to buy and where to buy it, we round it all up and give you an insider's shopper's special on small business in Halifax. Contact shoptalk@thecoast.ca to send a tip.


Thursday, March 12, 2020

Obsolete no longer

Agricola's favourite record retailer weathers the gentrifying strip's ups and downs

Posted By on Thu, Mar 12, 2020 at 9:51 AM


After ten years on Agricola Street, Obsolete Records was booted from its ramshackle storefront last fall in the most anticlimactic way possible. “Someone was parking out back, and drove into some support beam,” says Obsolete owner Ian Fraser. “And the building’s owner decided to just tear it all down.” 

The news wasn’t a total surprise: plans were already afoot to build a five-storey apartment building on the site. The parking mishap was just the nail in the coffin. But though Obsolete has become a North End mainstay—with a selection skewing heavily to Fraser’s own tastes in indie rock, underground hip-hop, and other relatively niche genres and artists—the redevelopment nearly spelled its end. 

“I was in the same space for very close to a decade,” says Fraser, “and they never raised my rent. When I actually had to start looking, it was a shock to see how rent had gone up all around the neighbourhood.”

The relocation may have been a blessing in disguise, however. Brighter, cleaner and wheelchair-accessible, the new space, at 2855 Agricola Street, is also the first to be occupied in a new block of storefronts that aims to draw Agricola foot traffic farther north. And, says Fraser, “it feels like a real store, not an afterthought kind of space.”

Obsolete occupied the first of a two-phase development, and Fraser says a cafe is planned to open beside his story in the spring or summer. “It looks like this is going to turn into a great little niche area,” says Fraser, “a new little hub of commerce.”

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Thursday, February 13, 2020

Tool time

The Good Neighbour makes for an easy way to swap tools with friends and neighbours

Posted By on Thu, Feb 13, 2020 at 9:31 AM

  • Supplied

The app-based sharing economy has produced no shortage of bizarre and terrible business ideas. Ever hear of Leftover Swap, the short-lived San Francisco startup that aimed to reduce food waste by letting users sell yesterday’s clammy noodles to nearby strangers? Didn’t think so.

But Alberta electrician David Thiessen is out to prove there’s life in the sharing economy yet with The Good Neighbour. With nearly 10,000 users in four western Canadian cities, the tool-sharing app—which allows users to rent tools from nearby users and offer their own on the platform—made its east-coast debut last month. It already has more than 650 users locally, offering everything from reciprocating saws ($10 a day) to cement mixers ($19) to step ladders ($11.29).

According to Thiessen, Halifax is just the right fit: a mid-sized city with a DIY spirit and close-knit neighbourhoods, making for lots of tools in close proximity (so far, most of the users are on or near the Halifax peninsula). Halifax already sports the well-loved Halifax Tool Library (3115 Veith Street), proving that the demand is already there. So if your tool collection consists of little more than a drawer full of old Allen keys, look for The Good Neighbour on Google Play, Apple’s App Store or at its website.

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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Hot winter daze at SENSEA Nordic Spa

Get really, really really relaxed at the South Shore’s one-of-a-kind spa.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 8, 2020 at 1:54 PM

SENSEA Nordic Spa offers European-inspired spa services in a Nova Scotian lakefront setting. - SUBMITTED
  • SENSEA Nordic Spa offers European-inspired spa services in a Nova Scotian lakefront setting.

On a 26-acre parcel of land outside the Nova Scotia coastal village of Chester is a spa unlike any other in the province. Instead of minimalistic white rooms with high ceilings, scented candles and in-ground hot tubs, you'll find ice-cold waterfalls, Turkish hammams and cozy fireplaces.

"Offering a pause, a break in your busy life, that's really our intent," says Christophe Debeaumont, owner of SENSEA Nordic Spa.

Originally from France, Debeaumont and his wife, Laetitia Gomthier, moved to Canada five years ago. Avid spa-goers in Europe, the couple wanted to provide Canadians with a unique experience, drawing inspiration from spa cultures across Europe to create something original.

To that end, explains Debeaumont, the couple have embellished the basic Nordic spa concept with ideas from their travels to spas in Luxembourg, Germany, Finland and across Scandinavia. Key to the experience, he says, is being immersed in nature.

"We wanted to create a new, different concept of spa where everything is embedded inside deep nature," he explains. "It sounds crazy, but we offer for you to be literally in your swimsuit in the cold outside in the wintertime."

The Nordic spa experience has three steps, Debeaumont explains. First, spa-goers warm up in a sauna, hammam (steam room) or hot bath. Second, they cool down as quickly as possible.

"The brutal way to do it is to pour a bucket of water on you," says Debeaumont, though there are gentler options, including an onsite waterfall.

Debeaumont says the shock of the cold releases adrenaline and endorphins in the body, inducing a deeply relaxed state afterwards.

The final step, of course, is relaxation, and Debeaumont recommends doing the hot-cold-relax cycle three times to "sleep like a baby" at night.

To induce even deeper tranquility, SENSEA has a lounge with a fireplace, light reading and classic vinyl records, as well as snacks and wine to purchase.

A typical day at the spa costs $50 for basic access. Add-ons like therapeutic massage, and traditional Russian banya—a treatment that involves being whipped with eucalyptus branches—cost extra.

By this summer, Debeaumont also plans to offer outdoor massages and a chance for people to take the experience even further by sleeping in "dream cocoons" (a sort of treehouse) overnight.

SENSEA opened on January 1, with about 100 guests taking in the experience. Located about 45 minutes from downtown Halifax, Debeaumont says the drive to Chester is a great chance to get into nature.

"We just want to offer you a way to escape the city," he says, "and give a pause on your life."

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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Flower Child is ready to bloom

Durable, versatile, fashionable kids clothing is headed downtown

Posted By on Thu, Nov 15, 2018 at 4:30 AM

The soon-to-be home of Flower Child, a kid's boutique
  • The soon-to-be home of Flower Child, a kid's boutique
When Charlotte Pierce had her first son, she couldn’t find the classic, quality clothing she wanted to dress him in anywhere in Halifax. She wound up shopping  online, falling in love with European brands and when baby number two arrived, watching him put his brother’s hand-me-downs to work. That planted the seed for Flower Child, a children’s boutique that Pierce—the aesthete and owner of veteran business The Flower Shop (1705 Barrington Street)—will open this month, just around the corner at 5189 Prince Street.

“I did a good test run, a lot of these brands have made it through both my kids,” she says. “I want to sell stuff I really love. You have to truly believe what you’re selling is awesome and because I’ve been able to test out these lines I feel so strongly about them.” With a desire to give Halifax more options when it came to versatile, hardy, handmade clothing for little ones, and an opportunity a stone’s throw from her shop, Pierce and her husband went hard demoing and renoing the space, transforming what was once Rock Candy Boutique into a brighter, lighter location with an old-fashioned storefront.

She’s also enlisted the retail and fashion-buying expertise of her childhood best friend Liz Culjak-Trafford, who’ll serve as studio manager. “We spent our younger years dressing up so it’s been fun picking lines together. I know that the right staff is everything,” she says, crediting her Flower Shop crew as the reason she can “even entertain the idea of opening another small business.”

Flower Child will boast collections like bonnet-maker Briar Handmade, Misha and Puff knitwear, Angulus shoes from Denmark and local designs from Thief & Bandit, as well as bedding from Camomile London. Pierce says the store will also offer online shopping, gift registries and will serve as a venue for baby showers.

“Once you enter the entrepreneurial world you feel your sense of your roots so much stronger. There’s this duty to make the city great,” says Pierce. “Because I’ve gone through six years of The Flower Shop, I feel like if anything I’ve gained a bit of confidence in the retail world. So this risk, to me, is worth it to try.” 
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Thursday, August 30, 2018

Cheeky Cod Gallery connects people with the artists

Queen Street's vintage row gets a pop of local art

Posted By on Thu, Aug 30, 2018 at 4:13 AM

When local artist Kelly Burgess decided she needed a solid spot to sell her work in Halifax, she pulled up her socks and made it happen. After calling up artists she’d met over the years at farmers’ markets, craft fairs and exhibits, The Cheeky Cod Gallery (1528 Queen Street) opened on the brightest block downtown—Vintage Row—earlier in the month, shining a light on single makers (the folks going it alone who might not have the ability to wholesale their work).

“It’s grown into this collection of work in the shop that has this great energy, and people come in and see that,” says Burgess. “I tell everyone who the artist is, what their story is. My goal is to really connect people with the artist.” The Cheeky Cod features work like pottery, ironwork, leatherwork, felting, woodworking, rug hooking and jewellery. Burgess hopes to offer pop-ups and classes in the gallery’s upstairs space soon. 
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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Flo brings peace, love and meditation to downtown Halifax

A new studio on Argyle wants to provide balance to suits and servers alike

Posted By on Thu, Aug 16, 2018 at 11:40 AM

In the heart of the bustle of downtown Halifax, you can find a peace, quiet and serenity—if you know where to look.  That place is called Flo, a newly opened modern meditation studio. (1574 Argyle Street, suite 14). Take a step inside, and find your breath.

Owners Autumn Grant and Jonathan Dododza named the studio after their baby girl, Florence. The family moved to Halifax from Vancouver in June and jumped in feet first, opening the studio a month-and-a-half later.

“Leaving home is never easy but it was serendipitous in a way where it gave me a chance to play with an open canvas in a transitioning city,” says Dododza.

“We feel that there is definitely a shift happening in the province,” says Grant, a Nova Scotia native. “It’s new, exciting, it feels really fresh, there’s a lot of things happening and we wanted to be a part of that movement.”

The couple is big on community and collaboration and wanted to create a space that reflected those values. Their space is full of locally curated art and products. Their teachers are local too, each bringing a different set of skills to the studio.

There is a magic to Flo, explains Dododza. There is no judgement—you can believe in what you want, wear what you want. Their hope is to make meditation less intimidating so people can experience its benefits. They want people to see it “through a whole different perspective.”

“You can't really control serendipity,” says Dododza. “We've been putting out this energy and this vibe and it’s just been coming all right back.”

Grant couldn’t agree more. “It just really makes us feel like we're doing the right thing at the right time.”
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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Sarah & Tom accessorizes a growing Halifax with Asian pop culture

The indie gift store chain has Nova Scotian roots, but no local outlet until now.

Posted By on Wed, Aug 8, 2018 at 2:19 PM

  • Chris Muise

If you’re on the hunt for a giant plush Pikachu, some colourful notebook stickers and a giant tube of wasabi that dispenses toilet paper...well, you’ve got some odd-yet-specific tastes. But good news for you! There’s a charming new shop in town that has you covered.

The doors of Sarah & Tom have only been open at its new 6448 Quinpool Road location for a month, but already it’s enjoying a great deal of business for a shop with such an esoteric catalogue of goods. “We have some slow periods, but most of the time it’s, like, super steady,” says Melanie Smith, one of the shop’s main staffers. “Saturdays are super busy.”

Smith says it can be hard to pin down in words exactly what Sarah & Tom deals in. “The consensus we’ve come up with is ‘Asian pop culture.’ We have a little bit of Korea, a little bit of Japan. We’re the first place in the Maritimes to sell K-Pop.”
Sarah & Tom, named for the married owners Sarah Milberry and Tom Yun, is something of a mom-and-pop franchise. Milberry and Yun met in South Korea while she was teaching English, and when the couple moved back to Milberry’s hometown of New Glasgow in 2007, they entertained dreams of opening up an Asian charms boutique.

“We knew we wanted to open a shop,” says Milberry. “But we knew we weren’t going to stay in Nova Scotia, because it probably wouldn’t take off here, we didn’t

The pair opened their first shop in Toronto in 2012, and since have expanded to a second Toronto location and a spot in Montreal. But as their family grew, Milberry felt homesick.

“I just wanted to be back on the east coast, be close to family,” she says. “We decided, ‘you know what, let’s try Halifax. Customers have been asking for it.’”
“Our Facebook page is just lit up all the time,” says Smith. “Tons of likes and comments and everything.”

“I like how we can buy these materials here,” says Siyoon Kim, a customer who brought her sister to check out the shop. “Nice to see that it’s getting more multicultural.”

Milberry credits the city’s multicultural growth for making an east coast location of the chain possible. “There’s more international students coming to universities here, there’s more families immigrating here. The product itself has become more international,” says Milberry. “It is more successful now, here, I believe, than if we tried to do it in 2007.”
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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Jill Stephenson Esthetics opens on Agricola Street

"It's definitely not a spa"

Posted By on Tue, Jun 12, 2018 at 3:10 PM

The restructuring of Flaunt Salon (2166 Windsor Street) helped master esthetician Jill Stephenson make some big moves, quickly. After looking around for a new home to offer her services from, she jumped on the chance to open her own spot instead.

“I have been working in Halifax for 10 years, it just seemed like the right time,” says Stephenson who opened Jill Stephenson Makeup Artistry and Esthetics last week at 2459 Agricola Street. “I wanted to create a special kind of calm, but fun, place. I’m a pretty fun, open, liberal kind of person and I really do like to connect with my clients,” she says of her opportunity to fly solo.

For now, she’s offering manicures and pedicures, waxing, threading, facials and lash extensions—as well as wedding and special occasion makeup—welcomes walk-ins, and promises chill, personal vibes. “It’s definitely not a spa,” says Stephenson. “I kind of feel like it’s my living room.”

[Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said Flaunt would be closing. That was inaccurate, see clarification here.]
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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Coffin Skate Shop is alive

Ready to roller.

Posted By on Wed, Apr 11, 2018 at 5:42 PM

  • coffinskate.com

Stephanie Coffin
and James Parker opened Coffin Skate Shop sort of quietly in September, sharing a space within Octopus Skates (5687 West Street) and filling a void in the local roller derby and roller skating scene. You see, the closest skate shop is Montreal. Considering roller derby is the fastest growing sport in the world, Coffin says, that makes no sense.

“I’ve been involved with Anchor City Rollers for six or seven years,” says Coffin, who learned the sport, skated competitively and now teaches new skaters with the organization. “The frustration with new skaters is that there’s nowhere to try on equipment and ask questions. A lot of them just kind of went online and sometimes ended up buying things that weren’t good for roller derby.”

She says she heard similar complaints from folks across the Maritimes, and finally decided she had to do something. “I knew there was a need but didn’t anticipate the reaction,” says Coffin of the buzz that came along with her shop’s expansion. Last week, it re-opened at 2456 Agricola, which is double the size of its first home, and includes space for indoor skate training. The shop sells skates, padding and gear, on-site servicing and will eventually offer lessons, work-outs and pop-up events (like, roller discos!).

The shop is open Saturdays and Sundays, 12-5pm, and will celebrate its grand opening Saturday, May 5.  Coffin hopes to cater to jam skaters, recreational rollers and of course, her derby community.

“The sport built strength and confidence I didn't realize was there” she says. “And improved the relationship I have with my body.”

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

New Scotland Brewing Co. to open this summer

Kevin and Scott Saccary of New Scotland Clothing have landed a location for their beer business.

Posted By on Thu, Mar 15, 2018 at 2:20 PM

  • Geoff Creighton

Kevin Saccary of New Scotland Clothing Co. wants his upcoming brewing company to reflect the same qualities as his clothing venture: “We strive to make a really high-quality product, locally-focused.”

Kevin co-owns New Scotland Clothing with his brother Scott Saccary, and the pair are teaming up with brewer Mike Gillespie for New Scotland Brewing Co. The idea of making beer under the New Scotland brand started floating around not long after the clothing line initially launched. 

  • via Instagram

“We just always pictured being in a local Nova Scotia pub or something and having our rampant lion symbol on top of a tap,” says Kevin. “We always envisioned that and that was always driving us to try to do this.”

After some research, the Saccarys discovered that there was a New Scotland Brewing Co. in Pictou County—but it no longer existed, so they were free to trademark the title. That was more than two years ago.

“So it’s been almost a three-year idea that’s finally coming to light.”

The Saccarys recently secured a location for their brewery and taproom (91 Alderney Drive), which Kevin says was their biggest challenge. They’re next steps are ordering equipment, executing their floor plan and getting the ball rolling in hopes of an early July opening. “You can come in and you’re literally going to be sitting and having a beer—probably next to some fermenters.” explains Kevin, describing the open concept. It won’t be a full-fledged restaurant, but there will be snacks and sandwiches available. On top of that, there will be a stage for acoustic entertainment.

Prospective customers can expect a slew of traditional Scottish beer on offer, as well as a cider and other signature beers. “We’re going to be dabbling in other things too, but we haven’t fully nailed those plans down yet,” says Kevin.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Levi Store opening doubles as a presidential homecoming

Levi Strauss head-honcho James Curleigh has his company's jeans in Halifax, and Halifax in his genes.

Posted By on Tue, Jan 23, 2018 at 3:45 PM

Levi Strauss president James "JC" Curleigh at the opening of the Halifax Levi Store, a stone's throw from the church where he got married. - NOAH WIDMEYER
  • Levi Strauss president James "JC" Curleigh at the opening of the Halifax Levi Store, a stone's throw from the church where he got married.
  • Noah Widmeyer

Not only did the president of denim dealers Levi Strauss & Co. come to town for the jean store’s grand opening celebration, but that president is from Halifax. 

For James Curleigh, better known as JC, helping open a store in his hometown is pretty spectacular.

"I've been on a world journey, and I never thought I'd get to come back to where it all started and open a store," says the corporate president.

Halifax-born and a Saint Mary’s University alumni, JC got his start in retail at Aerobics First on Quinpool Road in the ’80s with his brother. Working at the athletic boutique, his job included tasks like setting up displays and doing sales, which actually sounds pretty applicable to getting a new Levi Store up and running.

Now based out of San Francisco, he hasn’t forgotten where he came from.

“Once people found out I was from here, there became an urgency to open a store," he says.

Watch the following video for an extended interview.

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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Lily Pad Cat Lounge is opening
in Dartmouth

All resident cats are adoptable from the NS SPCA.

Posted By on Tue, Jan 9, 2018 at 4:02 PM


Jody Godin
had always wanted to start her own business, and a couple years ago she decided to take the leap. After jumping through some hoops and doing some crowdfunding, the Lily Pad Cat Lounge (590 Portland Street) is about to open in Dartmouth.

“I love animals, but I especially love cats,” says Godin. She got the idea for a cat-centric space as she read up on cat cafes around the country, particularly the Catfe in Vancouver. When the time came to get down to business, she found the rules around animals in food establishments are much stricter here than in other provinces. 

“It wasn’t until I actually finished my business plan and stuff like that, that I realized ‘Oh, OK, so I have to change this aspect and go on from there,’” says Godin.As a result, the lounge will be more focused on cats than being a cafe. Visitors first enter through the shop section of the store, where they can buy cat supplies or merchandise for themselves: “Necklaces, rings—things you’d want to give a crazy cat lady.” If they want a coffee or tea, there’s a self-serve station with a Keurig machine. After paying an entrance fee, it’s time to head to the lounge to meet the resident cats.

  • via Facebook

The kitties in question are all adoptable pets from the Nova Scotia SPCA. Godin’s job is to ensure they are happy and healthy in the lounge while the SPCA provides the food and vet care. If the cats need a break from people (as we all often do), they can slip through a kitty door to another room.

A couple roadblocks—including a power outage—have prevented Lily Pad from opening in the last few weeks, as Godin hoped it would. She’s hoping things will be up and running by the end of next week, if not before.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

There’s always room for dessert at Taiyaki 52

A new cafe brings taiyaki—and taiyaki ice cream—to the table

Posted By on Wed, Dec 20, 2017 at 5:57 PM

  • via iStock
Sophie Lee moved to Halifax from Vancouver about a year ago and the city immediately made an impression on her. “There was something quite different from larger cities,” she says. “People are really interested in local businesses and want to help each other succeed.”

It was that feeling, in combination with her experience in the food industry, that helped inspire her to open something of her own. Lee tapped into her sweeter side and dreamed up Taiyaki 52, a dessert cafe that’ll open at 2001 Brunswick Street (next door to Inkwell) in February and feature traditional, golden brown taiyaki cakes, with fillings like red bean and custard, as a centrepiece.

“Basically we’ll be selling Japanese, old-fashioned taiyaki—fish-shaped waffles—but sort of a fusion version. It’ll be similar to a waffle dessert plate, with fruit, whipped cream and syrups,” she says, citing the golden fish of New York’s Taiyaki NYC (we highly recommend looking it up) as a sort of muse. She also hopes to be serving taiyaki ice cream—AKA soft serve ice cream in a taiyaki cone—in the warmer months.

“I worked sushi restaurants for the longest time but wanted to create something more fun. Halifax, I think, is all about creativity.”

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Lucky Cat Barbershop opens its doors in Dartmouth

Downtown Dartmouth has a new spot to get a trim

Posted By on Tue, Dec 12, 2017 at 3:09 PM

Logan Hawkes - NOAH WIDMEYER
  • Logan Hawkes
  • Noah Widmeyer

“Lucky Cat is everything you love about your grandmother's basement,” says co-owner Logan Hawkes of the homey space as he capes a customer.

It’s the barbershop’s (49 Kings Wharf Place) opening day and its couch is already full of eager Dartmouthians. Patsy the pug happily greets customers at the door.

Lucky Cat has a sleek minimalistic setup with three chairs, offering haircuts and hot shaves. Hawkes co-owns it with fellow barbers Ashley Hawkes and Neil Atkinson.

“It’s the dream when you're a barber to have your own shop, I decided it was time to pull the trigger,” says Hawkes, who expects a hectic week and new year.

Patsy, right, manages the crowd - NOAH WIDMEYER
  • Patsy, right, manages the crowd
  • Noah Widmeyer
The need for a place for a trim in the ever-evolving downtown Dartmouth drew in the team. Small businesses continue to pop up in the area like neighbours The Watch That Ends The Night and Sidecar Goods and Yeah Yeahs Pizza (66 Ochterloney Street), which will be collaborating with the shop to make a Lucky Cat pizza.

"We have lots of collabs coming with other Dartmouth businesses," Hawkes adds. "That’s the beautiful thing about Dartmouth, how strong the community is.”

Follow @luckycatbarbershop for updates.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Church's Barbershop opens on Agricola

Posted By on Tue, Jul 18, 2017 at 4:02 PM

  • submitted

After two years of lowering ears from their west end joint, Scallywags Barbershop (6513 Chebucto Road), Dylan MacEachern and Brad MacDonald are expanding their fleet. Last week the pair quietly opened Church’s Barbershop in the former Makenew location (2468 Agricola Street), a spin off location that offers the same service with a slightly sleeker different look.

“We were just interested in having barbershops that service different little neighbourhoods in the city. Agricola Street is cool, there’s a whole bunch going on in the street right now—it’s super bustling,” says MacEachern. “Scallywags is a little bit knick knacky, a little busy. This one I’m trying to keep more minimal, clean and contemporary—concrete countertops and birch.”

Contemporary with a healthy dose of throwback inspiration, though. MacEachern says both the name, and some of the shop’s decor, are a hat tip to Harold Church, “an OG barber” who opened his first shop in Truro in 1953, and later hung his clippers in Tatamagouche.

“I have a cottage in Tatamagouche and I was kind of keeping my eye on the spot, until he passed away a couple of years ago,” he says. “I got in touch with Bonnie Church, his widow, and purchased all the fixtures out of the shop.”

A barber pole and Belmont chairs —along with a letter of consent from Bonnie Church herself—decorate and influence the new north end barbershop. Church’s is currently cutting from two chairs Tuesday through Sunday, hoping to expand to three or four by summer’s end.

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