In a January 2010 New Pittsburgh Courier article concerning the closing of the A-K Valley Federal Credit Union in Homewood-Brushton, the CEO and president of the branch stated that Homewood is a dangerous place and needs to be cleaned up.
The weekend of June 11 and 12, Homewood native Derrick Hemby took the opposite view and officially opened his fifth business in the community, the Galaxy Lounge and Entertainment Center. Located at 7246 Kelly St., the Galaxy, offering “an out of this world experience” is a combination bar and entertainment complex. “They said Homewood couldn’t do it, but here we are,” said Hemby during his grand opening celebration.
|OH, WHAT A FEELING—Derrick Hemby, owner of the Galaxy Lounge and Entertainment Center addresses the crowd during the grand opening as his wife Carla looks on.
Classified as a sports bar, Hemby says he believes the Galaxy Lounge and Entertainment Center is the largest Black-owned facility of its kind in Pittsburgh offering fun, games, music, live entertainment, sports telecasts and good food. Between noon and 2 a.m. patrons can play pool, darts, basketball, ping-pong and other games. During the week happy hours and various specials and promotions take place such as Martini Mondays, Tournament Tuesdays, Wet Your Whistle Wednesdays, Ladies Nights on Thursday, Jam Sessions and DJ Tracey Lee on Friday and R&B Old School Saturdays.
With the goal to be a multi-purpose facility for families to hold events and activities like parties, receptions and reunions and for organizations to utilize, Hemby said the recreational section of the complex can be separated from the bar area.
A full service establishment, the Galaxy also has food and a car wash and by the end of July, Wade’s Barber Shop will operate in the building. Located in Homewood for over 35 years, Wade Lipscomb said, “I’m excited about locating here. It’s an opportunity for me to expand my business.” He said the barber shop and a nail salon will operate from the Galaxy and a beauty parlor will function from his current 7223 Kelly St. location.
Like Libscomb, the Hemby family believes in the community and has invested as business owners for more than 30 years. Derrick’s father Earl opened his first business, the Royal Club on Finance Street in 1977. He owned the Hollywood Club on Bennett Street and several other bars in the neighborhood. They also owned and operated the New Living Room Lounge in Chicago, which his mother, Mag, ran.
Tired of working for others, Derrick said his father knew a lot of people in the community and decided to open his own business to provide a gathering place for his friends to play cards and to hang out.
Upon graduating from high school Hemby said he began working in the family business and learned the mechanics of the operation from the bottom up. “I cleaned, served as doorman, worked with the bands working my way up to manager.” Now in addition to the Galaxy, Hemby owns The New Earl The Pearls, which he runs with his brother Andre, The Grand Room all on Kelly Street and Denise and Earl’s Lounge on Frankstown Avenue which is a partnership.
A 1980 graduate of Westinghouse High School, he was captain of the football team and played semi-pro football for the East End Raiders and Penn Hills Pythons. He also tried out for the United States Football League.
A family man, Hemby worked for Allegheny County for 20 years, which he says was a way to provide for his children until they matured. Now he focuses full time on his businesses. Businesses that includes Big D’s Vending which he has owned and operated for the last 15 years. Big D’s provides Internet juke boxes, video games and snack and pop machines to youth centers, nonprofit agencies, bars and other establishments.
When questioned as to how he got into the vending business, he explained that after observing how the industry worked and how the profits from the machines were split between the parties involved he knew it would be advantageous if his businesses owned their own machines. Now he owns and services more than 80 machines throughout the region.
Classified as Pittsburgh’s premier entertainment center, Hemby, his wife Carla and brother are striving to make the Galaxy a place people look to to satisfy all their entertainment needs. “The staff, manager Pam Williams and event coordinator Leah Kidd, we work hard to please our patrons and meet their needs no matter the reason they are using the facility,” Hemby said.
His goal within the year is to house a banquet facility on the second floor of the building.
“We’ll be well equipped to handle large events of all types he said. He also hopes to one day be able to bring in a variety of major entertainment. But for now he plans to continue to network with club owners in other cities such as Baltimore and Cleveland and host events during the football season when buses come in from those cities.
Unlike outsiders coming into Homewood and viewing it as a hopeless neighborhood, Hemby and his family view the community with potential and aim to provide it with hope and an “out of this world experience.”