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‘Things for me and my business, at the beginning of the pandemic, were tough’

sharp city kensington
Rafael Suarez, owner of Sharp City barber shop in Kensington, poses for a portrait on September 10, 2021. (Photo by Solmaira Valerio)

Rafael Suarez

Owner of Sharp City Barber Shop at 3089 Kensington Ave. 

Interviewed in September 2021

Editor’s Note: The following responses have been edited for clarity and brevity. This interview was interpreted and translated from Spanish to English by Kensington Voice Resilience Editor Solmaira Valerio.

1. How were things for you and your business in the beginning of the pandemic? How would you compare the state of your business from then to now?

Things for me and my business, at the beginning of the pandemic, were tough because we were forced to close the business for a few months. Then I had to do haircuts from home with some clients while following COVID-19 safety measures. It was hard at first. From then to now, the state of the business has been a little slow because the pandemic has affected us a lot. Many people are afraid to go out, so we still have not 100% recovered.

2. Can you describe how the City of Philadelphia has supported business owners throughout the pandemic? Have you felt supported by the city?

In my case, I cannot directly say that the City has benefited me, but many colleagues of mine have told me that the City has helped them to recover their business and maintain their employees. And they always keep cleaning the streets. 

We have felt supported by the city, even though I haven’t received economic benefits from them. At least they always keep up with what is happening in the area. There is always availability to collect garbage and employees who help us with everything.

3. Can you share your experience with managing safety in your business throughout the pandemic? (mask mandates, capacity restrictions, social distancing, etc.)

At the beginning of the pandemic, to be able to maintain order and sanitation in the business, we closed the door with a client inside. The others waited outside while I finished with the client who was inside [and wearing a mask]. 

4. Can you share any moments in the last year where you faced a challenge that required you to find new ways to operate due to the pandemic?

Yes, of course, so the pandemic taught me to do work from home. Clients came to my house to get a haircut. I did not do that before the pandemic. I learned that with the pandemic.

5. What is the best way for people to support your business?

The best way for people to support my business is by following the mask and social distancing mandate.


Editors: Khysir Carter, Jillian Bauer-Reese, Solmaira Valerio, Zari Tarazona / Designer: Henry Savage

What did you think about this story? Send a note to editors@kensingtonvoice.com, and we’ll consider publishing it in our Voices section. You can also tell us what you think in person at our neighborhood events.

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