After 19 years, Oakland barber shop The Natural Choice will open a second location inside a former Homewood garage. The Natural Choice will be one of two anchor tenants inside The Shop, a coworking maker space opening next month inside the former Pittsburgh Autoworks building at 621 N. Dallas Ave.
Nate Mitchell, better known as DJ Nate da Barber, is the owner of The Natural Choice and formerly of 720 Records. He grew up in New Homestead and moved to Homewood in the ninth grade.
“This is my neighborhood. This is where everything started. I’ve always had an affinity for Homewood and the people here.”
Now he wants to take part in a Homewood economic resurgence. As the barber shop attracts patrons so will they be exposed to the opportunities available at The Shop.
“We’ll have everything you would need to help get established,” he says. “A tool-lending library, post office box in front. In the evenings we’ll have keynote speakers and lecturers. It’s a start-up dream come true.”
The 5500-square-foot structure is owned by the husband-and-wife team of Adam Paulisick, co-founder at Fygment, and Ashley Cecil, the artist whose studio will be the building’s second anchor tenant.
“We want a building where entrepreneurs can start or grow businesses that are about physical things and peer-to-peer services. There are already a lot of opportunities in Pittsburgh for software and other intangibles,” says Cecil.
“We want to see people who are invested in the neighborhood and live in the neighborhood be the decision-makers.”
Mitchell will also have a teaching chair where he can take on a barber apprentice.
It’s likely none of this would have happened were it not for a chance encounter in 2014 when Paulisick stopped into the café at 720 Records one morning and struck up a conversation with Mitchell. That first meeting inspired Unstuck Mondays, a popular weekly meeting for entrepreneurs.
Mitchell was already looking to buy a building of his own in Homewood but realized he could get his shop up and running quicker with a location in The Shop.
“Once I announced the campaign there was nothing but well-wishes and love,” says Mitchell. “There are other barber shops in Homewood. I’m not taking anything away from them; they are institutions. The difference is this, the entire collective of what we are trying to build here.”
Learn more about the new space on the #HomewoodRising indiegogo campaign.