IN THE SHADOW of Temple University, where the buzz of electric drills spawning the latest development is everyday white noise, the old and new stand brick to brick.
On Oxford Street, just a kiss from Broad Street, is New Barber's Hall, a restaurant/bar owned and run by Jacob Adams since 1978.
On weekdays, the down-home bar finds longtime customers munching on everything from cheesesteaks and wings to butterfly shrimp and crab legs, and playing pool over Bud Lights on draft.
On weekends, the well-dressed fill party rooms and dance under a disco ball to celebrate birthdays, retirements, weddings.
The back of Adams' property abuts Masters, a sleek, trendy restaurant/bar on Carlisle Street that just opened in July.
Owner Waylon Nelson, 36, picked voguish decor like leathered granite, recycled barnyard wood, chalkboard paint, old books from vintage stores and aluminum stackable stools.
Students eat hipster food including roasted tomato hummus, black bean roasted corn veggie burgers and roasted wild mushroom flatbread. The over-21 crowd sips on faddish cocktails like Moscow Mules.
At night, students flock upstairs to "The Study," where ceramic, wood, mirrored and aluminum owls line bookshelves to go with the collegiate theme. Some nights they come to play Quizzo; other nights they swarm around the DJ and dance to the latest hits.
This is today's Cecil B. Moore neighborhood, or what some refer to as TempleTown.
Each year the neighborhood, from Montgomery Avenue to Jefferson Street and from Broad to 22nd streets, becomes more gentrified. Although it's not unusual to have pricey modular, compact apartments replacing broken glass and crumbling bricks, it is startling to have old and new living side-by-side or back-to-back, like Barber's Hall and Masters.
Developers continue to offer the 72-year-old Adams, one of the few black business owners in the Cecil B. Moore neighborhood, big cash to sell New Barber's Hall. A developer once affiliated with Masters tried to entice him.
"You thinking about selling?" Adams said the developer asked him.
"No," Adams replied.
"Well, think about it," Adams said the developer told him.
Each bid gets better.
Just a couple of months ago, Adams, who bought New Barber's Hall with his brother 36 years ago for $70,000, was offered $2 million for the three-story, circa-1808 building in a neighborhood with a rich African-American history.
Again, without hesitation, he said no thanks.
"It's a matter of principle," the 5-foot-5 Adams said with a determination-laced smile.
"Pride has a lot to do with it. Why would I leave here? There are no black businesses here in this part of town. Ninety percent of people who support this business look like me.
"If they didn't come, Barber's Hall wouldn't be here. I owe them my success. If I close the door, I'd be letting them down."
Adams, married for 50 years and a father of three, grandfather of four, was a longtime school district employee when he bought the building, which used to be a national barbers club.
Hence the name.
It's remained a neighborhood staple and family business he runs with his niece, Charlotte Adams, as the friendly bar manager.
Adams said he's seen his insurance and taxes climb over the years and watched the surge of granite-countertop student apartments and mod restaurants.
"You feel safer in the community than before," he said. "You can walk around the neighborhood. There's much more security than there used to be."
Just to be sure it stays that way, he posts a sign in the window of New Barber's Hall: "No weapons allowed."
Adams gets frustrated, however, that developers now often qualify for tax abatements, and he doesn't, and never did.
"I'm not entitled to anything," he said, shaking his head. "I resent the fact that since I've been here, they're treating me like I'm nobody. . . . What am I supposed to do, sell out? This is my country, too."
Waylon Nelson, who has been in the restaurant-management business for years, thought TempleTown was the perfect spot to launch Masters.
The property on Carlisle Street used to be an abandoned garage. Nelson designed the place, and when asked about a chef, he said, "It's kinda me."
He created the menu, came up with the recipes and often whips them up himself. His wife of two weeks, Francesca, offered to help out behind the bar for the short term when Masters opened July 11.
She hasn't left.
Nelson, a native of Maine who lives a half-mile from the restaurant, said New Barber's Hall appeals to longtime residents of the Cecil B. Moore neighborhood.
"He wants the older crowd," Nelson said. "I can always tell when he has events. You'll see people driving around looking for parking and they're all dressed up."
Meanwhile, Nelson said Masters draws the student crowd. Although Nelson's working so much he barely sleeps, Masters is packed nightly.
He said he understands why Adams won't sell.
"He's a neighborhood nice guy. . . . He's been there forever and he's done good for himself," he said.
"That's his life. Money isn't everything."