When Damian Powell and David Gant look inside their empty commercial building on Merchant Street, they envision many possibilities.
The business partners hope to create those possibilities for others by opening Let’s Get 2gether, a private facility for banquets, meetings, receptions, graduation parties and other events.
“People need places to have events, whether it’s a party, a baby shower, a business meeting,” said Powell, co-partner. “We want to bring something to the community."
The building at 598 Merchant St. previously housed the Keystone Rehabilitation Center and is zoned for a physician’s office. The space has also been used as a drug store and skate shop in the past.
The partners have remodeled inside, replacing the flooring and adding fresh coats of paint. Powell said the venue can hold about 100 people and is handicapped accessible. The business can provide ample tables and seating, depending on the event, but would require customers to hire caterers because the small kitchen only has a microwave and refrigerator.
Across the street is the former Sol’s building that the partners also own and are currently looking to sell.
Powell of Aliquippa and Gant of Ambridge also operate the D&T Barber Shop at 1011 Merchant St. Powell and his wife opened the shop more than seven years ago. Gant joined the business a year later and has been working there since.
“We’ve never had an issue at the barbershop,” Powell said.
“The police have never been called, not even one time,” Gant added.
Gant began cutting hair when he was 14 and started out sweeping floors in an Aliquippa barbershop.
Powell followed in the generational footsteps of his grandfather, who owned a barber shop in Aliquippa for many years, and he learned from all of his uncles who also cut hair. He got his business sense from his father, who owned a bar in Aliquippa.
Gant comes from a large family of 15 children and is now a single father raising his 2-year-old son, Kimere. He takes care of his grandfather before coming to work each day and said he looks up to Powell as a father figure.
“Growing up in life, I didn’t have a dad,” he said.
After high school, Gant attended Penn State University’s main campus to study secondary education on a track and field scholarship.
Years later, he would cross paths with Powell on a bus, where the two would have a life-changing conversation. Gant told Powell that he cut hair well and wanted a job. Powell had been cutting hair by himself for about a year and needed the extra help.
“You really can cut hair?” Powell recalls asking Gant.
Powell said he later realized that Gant couldn’t cut as well as he’d proclaimed, but he still took him under his wing as an apprentice.
“He worked with me and gave me a shot,” Gant said.
“It worked out,” Powell added.
The two are now focused on making Lets Get 2gether work.
A few parties have been held there, including a graduation party for recent Aliquippa graduate Dravon Henry, a football college recruit and starter for West Virginia University.
It was after a recent 5-year-old’s birthday party that the place was issued a violation and ordered to close. Powell said most of the guests had already gone home.
“There was no crowd at all, everything was diffused," he said.
In order to reopen as a venue, Ambridge Fire Chief Dave Drewnowski said the owners have to apply for a new occupancy permit.
Powell said they are in the process of looking for an architectural engineer to assist with the process.