Thee Shop Plaza barbershop becomes a movie set

It's already a fixture in Mantua, with celebrity customers like Phillies Ryan Howard and Ben Francisco. And now the Thee Shop Plaza barbershop, at 33rd and Spring Garden streets, is getting ready for a starring role in a feature film by Rel Dowdell.

Dowdell is a Germantown native with one film under his belt: "Train Ride," which was well-reviewed as a DVD and had a small theatrical release. He has a master's degree in filmmaking from Boston University, and one Boston critic puts his work in the same league as Spike Lee's and John Singleton's.

Thee Shop Plaza caught Dowdell's eye when he was scouting locations for his second movie, "Changing the Game," about a young man from North Philly who becomes a success on Wall Street. Rapper Sticky Fingaz has one of the lead roles, as a barber.

Besides big-name athletes, the Philly shop's customers include community titans like Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers and educator Chuck Williams. Dowdell is also a client. "It's a conversational atmosphere. Everyone knows everyone," he said. "All the barbers have their own unique personalities."

Dowdell said he enjoyed shooting the film in Philly this summer and talking with kids whose curiosity led them to his movie set at Thee Shop Plaza. "I'm sure at least one kid has been inspired to become a filmmaker," he said.