MEDIANEWS GROUP FILE PHOTO
Byron Mundy shows support for Nichole Missino, owner of Giovanni’s Barber Shop in Media, during a rally outside her shop earlier this month. Missino said she’d been threatened with the loss of her occupancy license if she reopened.
BOB GROTZ – MEDIANEWS GROUP
Outside Giovanni’s Barber Shop on Oliver Street in Media Saturday, a crowd rallied in support owner Nichole Missino, who said she’d been threatened with the loss of her occupancy license if she reopened.
BOB GROTZ – MEDIANEWS GROUP
The view of Giovanni’s Barber Shop in Media during a Saturday morning rally in support of reopening small businesses.
MEDIA – From a veteran celebrating his 73rd birthday to a 9-year-old girl standing alongside her mother, a crowd of 100 people sent a message to Gov. Tom Wolf Saturday morning outside Giovanni’s Barber Shop on Olive Street.
Giovanni’s owner Nichole Missino, her establishment nearing financial ruin, led the rally of mostly disillusioned citizens tired of government telling them what to do and preventing them from going back to work at so-called nonessential businesses.
Missino intended to cut hair at Giovanni’s Saturday in defiance of Wolf’s order banning the reopening of nonessential businesses. The appointment book was full. Stringent sanitation and health precautions would be in place, including shields and masks. A message on the wall read “ReOpen PA.”
With an unmarked Media police vehicle parked across the street, window open, Missino and others urged a crowd of more than 100 bearing signs reading “Let America Work Again,” “This Is Actual Fascism” and “Where Are You Getting Your Hair Cut Gov. Wolf?” to join the back-to-work movement gaining traction among some as unemployment soars.
“We’re not going to open today because we were threatened with our occupancy certificates being pulled,” Missino said, identifying Media Police Chief Martin Wusinich as the source of that fear. “The state board reached out and said that they would defend our license – and that they could also prosecute me. So, as of right now we’re not opening. I do have a lawyer and I am speaking to him. And I’m going to try to figure out how to open because we can’t stay closed.”
Wusinich told the Daily Times he hadn’t made demands on Missino or Giovanni’s. Just the same, Wusinich and Media Mayor Bob McMahon wouldn’t have felt welcome at this rally, for they were called out by angry people in the crowd. “Spineless” and “cowardly” were the angrier taunts.
Felicia Stella, one of the unemployed barbers, implored officials paid by taxpayers to consider the people they’re elected to represent.
“Let’s see how long they can survive on $1,200,” she said, referring to the federal government stimulus check.
Missino said no one on her staff has received unemployment and she isn’t getting federal small business assistance. Bills upwards of $3,000 a month are piling up.
Noting the governor’s recent decision to allow dentists to perform non-urgent procedures Monday, Missino responded “That’s crazy.
“You can go to a dentist and get your teeth worked on and I can’t do a haircut?” she said. “I’m not in anybody’s mouth.”
Byron Mundy, no stranger to the cause of taxpayers’ rights, having spent 22 years on the Southeast Delco School Board, sported an “Open Penna Now” sign.
“We’ve heard the virus, COVID-19 could kill a lot of people,” Mundy said. “Well, now the shutdown itself is leading to deaths. There’s a lot of suffering and pain from the shutdown. We have people who are afraid to go to hospitals. They have cancer or heart disease and they’re not going to get their normal treatments. The hospitals are shut down for almost everything but COVID. Look at alcoholism. People are staying home and alcoholism is on the rise. That’s going to kill a lot of people. Suicides are up. People are frustrated because they can’t work.
“The old saying is you can’t let the cure be worse than the disease. Basically, it’s not that deadly. Most people that get it just have mild symptoms.”
Val Biancaniello from Marple described herself as a respiratory therapist who works with COVID-19 patients.
“We are all affected,” Biancaniello said. “We do want to do the right thing. But we also need to get back to work. Gov. Wolf needs to strike that balance and recognize the people. Almost 80 percent of the people getting the virus are in nursing homes. It’s time to get back to work. We need paychecks.”
George Anderson, who handed out donuts at the rally, appealed to government officials to remember what the nation’s founding fathers said.
“It’s we the people who are the governors, not the governed,” Anderson said. “There are those in our state who currently are in power who want to return us to those days where the top ruled the people. That’s not the American way. The American way is we, the people. And if they don’t start paying attention to it, I fear for our country.”
That received one of the loudest ovations at a rally that was peaceful and respectful. There was no interference from police, who, anticipating large numbers, stacked a small army of crowd barriers alongside Giovanni’s. Olive Street was full of people but didn’t need to be closed.
Missino, having obtained counsel, is confident her business will open sooner rather than later.
“I feel like if we put safety measures like we have inside then we should be able to open,” Missino said. “I feel like if anybody’s scared then don’t come in. And I don’t think we would pass it along to anyone. We’re constantly sanitizing, we’re wearing the face masks and we’re wearing the face shields.”