Media Coverage | ‘Big Tom’ aims to uplift the Hill District, just like Walter Hamm did

Jan 25, 2022

By: Ashley G. Woodson | For New Pittsburgh Courier | Read the full article

New barbershop location will include affordable housing

A NEW BEGINNING —  Elected officials, along with Thomas Boyd Sr., fourth from left, celebrate the groundbreaking of a new location for Big Tom’s Barbershop and four units of affordable housing at 2178 Centre Ave. in the Hill District. (Photo by Ashley G. Woodson)

Thomas Boyd Sr., of TomTom24 Development, LLC, was joined by the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, Neighborhood Allies, the Boyd family, elected officials and members of the community to a groundbreaking ceremony at 2178 Centre Ave., the future site of Big Tom’s Barbershop and much more. It’s the location where a community fixture, Hamm’s Barbershop, once stood for decades.

“This lot that we’re standing on is going to be beautified and used for community benefit and to allow for home-based businesses and pop-up sales. You are starting to see that legacy of Mr. (Walter) Hamm be built upon here by Tom,” said Diamonte Walker, Deputy Executive Director of the URA, at the Nov. 30, 2021, groundbreaking.

“This is the type of development that we all talk about from someone born and raised in the neighborhood. You can’t get to this place without integrity, social capital and the way you’ve lived your life all of these years. I think someone like Mr. Tom Boyd is the epitome of what our neighborhoods should be,” added Neighborhood Allies President Presley L. Gillespie.

Boyd is going to relocate his barbershop from 2042 Centre Ave. to the first floor of the rehabilitated structure at 2178 Centre. The second and third floors will become four one-bedroom apartments available to those at or below 80 percent Area Median Income. The nearby lots will be beautified and used as open space for the community.

THE BOYD FAMILY, at the groundbreaking ceremony, Nov. 30, 2021. (Photo by Ashley G. Woodson)
WALTER HAMM, the Hill District institution who owned Hamm’s Barbershop at 2178 Centre Ave. all the way up until his death in 2011.

“The Hill District has always been a proud community,” voiced Boyd. “My family has five generations in this community by going to school, working, playing and all of that. It started with my grandfather, Rev. Jesse Thomas Boyd. In his older life he was a pastor and he had a restaurant on Centre Avenue and a jitney station and rest in peace to my grandfather but he didn’t own any of those things. That is one thing that always bothered me because I’ve been at my barbershop for 16 years but I don’t own it. I’m paying rent to a landlord that I don’t like. I always looked up to Mr. Hamm because he was a proud man, business owner and he always supported the community and I hope I can live up to that. I want to thank Sam because he is one of the main reasons the shop gets the love it gets and all of the staff that make Big Tom’s what it is today. I want to thank everyone for all of their hard work in making this a reality.”

The project has received more than $1.94 million in funding from First National Bank, Lower Hill Group, Neighborhood Allies, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency and the URA.

“I’m so excited for him (Boyd) because he symbolizes a lot of what we’ve been saying to authentic Hill residents and those who have seen our neighborhood go through different changes,” said Rep. Jake Wheatley. “I have a personal relationship with him and I’ve heard about his struggles, visions and dreams about why he wanted to do this. I’ve also seen his walk from years ago to now wanting to be an example of how you can take whatever people throw at you and turn into something so much greater.”

Top Header Image Photo Credit: Prototyping Larimer Stories by artist John Peña, photo by OPA