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Last One Standing

Mop City’s future bleak with transit project

Erick Johnson | 3/13/2014, 9 a.m.
At the height of its success, Mop City Barbershop enjoyed hundreds of loyal clientele who came from as far as ...
Mop City employee sweeps the floor while waiting for customers on a typical weekday. Miami Times Photo Erick Johnson

Critics say Mop City is holding out until the last minute to get the most money out of a deal.

“People say what they want to say,” Cheeley said. “They don’t know the whole story. But these [developers] have been dragging this thing on for the longest.”

Cheeley’s landlord Makar Galustyants, a Russian businessman, offered to sell the building for $5 milllion dollars so Atlantic Pacific can demolish it for the Transit Village. According to the Miami Dade Property Appraiser, the current market value of the site is $144,828. Atlantic Pacific balked at the offer and decided to build the village around the barbershop.

“We figured the amount was way higher than the appraised value,“ Naylor said. “But I’m really excited in moving forward with the project.”

Galustyants said the $5 million offer was not out of greed, but a punishment to project organizers and

County officials whom he accused of stalling on the project and canceling previous offers to buy his building.

Both Cheeley and Galustyants say they have grown weary of the project. They point to another venerable Liberty City business, Greene Dreams Shoe Repair, which was demolished last year amid accusations of being forced out of their location where it stood for 40 years.

Despite those problems, Naylor said he is still open to negotiating and having Cheeley as a new tenant. Although he can relocate without his owner, Cheeley remains loyal in staying with Galustyants. Cheeley doesn’t have much time to decide. Construction on the The Transit Village begins later this month. 

“We welcome Mop City because they have been important to the neighborhood,” Naylor said.

Originally located in Overtown on NW 2nd Avenue in 1960, Mop City was named after a charismatic Black customer whose nickname was Mop. The shop in Overtown closed years later but Cheeley, then an apprentice opened the Liberty City shop in 1972 with two other barbers from the former location. Over the years, the shop’s customers have included Mohammad Ali, James Brown, Teddy Pendergrass and R&B Soul Singer Phyllis Hyman.

“We welcome Mop City because they are important to the neighborhood,” Naylor said.

Though critics say Mop City is taking serious risks, Cheeley said relocating his shop to the new complex won’t make a difference in reviving his business.Cheeley said he would still need operating capital to make the move and purchase new equipment.

“And it depends on where my shop will be located in the village,” he said. “It has to be visible.”