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Italians in America – Our Immigrant Stories: From bustling deli to burgeoning beauty empire, family’s can-do spirit keeps on doing

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Written By Tanya Tecce

Angela Scimeca’s parents emigrated from Sicilia around 1908 and settled in South Philadelphia, where they brought their passion for good food and entrepreneurship. They built a bustling store, Scimeca’s delicatessen, on the corners of Passyunk Avenue near Christian Street along with an even more bustling family of 11 children.

The Scimecas at their family store, Passyunk Avenue near Christian Street, Philadelphia, circa 1935.

When Angela was old enough, she took a “Rosie the Riveter” job at the Philadelphia Navy yard. In 1944 sailor Donald Moore, originally from St. Louis., Mo., was stationed there and they fell in love.

Donald Moore is seen in a childhood photo with his parents, Donald and Angela, 1949.

Angela and Donald married and had three children: Donald E., Kathleen and Gary. They migrated their family farther west to the suburbs of Delaware County where young Donald grew up and graduated from Upper Darby High School in 1964. In 1967 he followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Navy. “My cousins introduced me to the beauty business when I was 13. My dad wasn’t crazy about the idea, so I stayed away from it, but when I was in the Navy there was an opening in the barbershop and I knew how to cut hair.”

Donald and his cousin Francesco at the family store in Caccamo, Sicilia, 2023.

Upon his return home, he went to Tri City barber school in Philadelphia and in 1967 took a “job,” which would become a lifetime passion, in the suburbs of West Chester. An art major in school and an avid art and memorabilia collector, including Sinatra originals, Donald was now able to allow his eye for art and talent to flourish.

“I didn’t want to go to college, so I came out here to perfect my skill,” he said. 

As fate would have it, he also met Mary Jo, who would become his wife now for more than five decades.

“In 1973 I opened my first salon at Parkway Center, Headquarters Hair Design. Shags were the rage then. Everyone, men and women, wanted them,” he remembered. “I went into partnership and by 1984 we had five various-priced salons. Within 10 years I had nine total including Heads You Win, Headquarters and Calista.”

For a boy who was once tied to a tree to make him sit still, pouring such energy into his work seems like second nature.

“In 1989 I opened Calista with Maria Desanti McCool, which thrived so well, in 1998 we opened up Calista Grande. That very same year I opened up the Goose Creek Grille on Route 926,” he said. “That was the first year that both Main Line Today magazine and Philadelphia Magazine gave my salons and my restaurant “Best of” in both categories of Hair and Restaurants. That hasn’t happened since.

The following year he received the Paradigm Award for Pennsylvania Business Man of the year. The enterprising spirit of Donald’s grandparents clearly pulses on.

In 2010 Calista was chosen to do hair for all the hosts and celebrities at the QVC home shopping channel, which led to a much deeper familiarity of the beauty world. They then developed a product line, Calista Tools, which is still one of their best-selling brands.

“Starting out all those years ago, everyone in my family said be careful but I went for it,” he said.

Donald and Mary Jo have a close-knit family with children Donald J. and daughter Jessica and their eight grandchildren. Jessica manages Calista Grande and Donald J. is partners with his dad and chef Dan Funk (of New Orleans Cafe fame) at the two Social Lounges in West Chester and Downingtown. They live within minutes of each other and spend family time together regularly, having dinner a couple times a week and celebrating life every weekend in the summer.

This past autumn, Donald and Mary Jo traveled to his ancestral hometown of Caccamo, Sicilia, making stops at Taormina, Cefalù, and Palermo along the way.

“Caccamo is so old world, it’s a medieval town, top of the mountain, and that’s the charm of it. It takes an hour to get down and although you can see the sea, you’re nowhere close to get in it.”

But there’s art everywhere there, in the food and the scenery and of course, the way of life. The local Scimeca family store in Caccamo draws customers from miles around with decadent delicacies like lemon wedges enrobed in dark chocolate as well as olive oil.

“My family, they’re all beautiful and smart and I’m so proud,” he said. “And my employees are my backbone; some have been with me more than 40 years. Thankfully I have a great sense for people and their talents. I also aim to pay it forward, to coach and mentor and find a connection between who they are, what they can do, their work ethic, their natural gifts and integrity and I don’t let that go unrecognized.”

Although he is 77 years old, there is no sign of slowing down this spirited entrepreneur. 

“We’re getting ready to open another venue near the college. There is no retirement. Retirement is when you want to leave something you don’t like,” he said. “I never worked a day in my life because I love what I do and I do what I love.”

Donald Scimeca Moore is co-founder and co-owner of the premier Calista Salon & Spa in West Chester, Calista Tools (featured on QVC) and the Social Lounges in both West Chester and Downingtown.

OUR IMMIGRANT STORIES ARE PROUDLY SPONSORED BY STAMPONE O’BRIEN DILSHEIMER LAW

Tanya Tecce

Tanya is an Anxiety Anthropologist and Family Alchemist sharing deep nervous system restoratives and healing family constellation work with her clients. Master certified in Transformational Psychology NLP, she curates decades of study and experience in neuroscience, psychology, family constellations, epigenetics, yoga, and ayurveda to heal mindset and fortify your nervous system so it feels safe for you to get what you want. She’s led retreats to Italy annually since 2014 and has worked with Today Media since 2003, IAH since 2019. To learn more about her powerful “suffering obligations of love” work visit: tanyatecce.lpages.co/protect-my-peace/

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