By Judy Carmack Bross
“To my knowledge, in the history of professional baseball I am the first professional hair stylist to ever throw the first pitch.” Mario Tricoci after accomplishing this feat at Wrigley Field on his 80th birthday.
Mario Tricoci has been pitching great ideas since he opened his first salon in the Chicago area in 1976 in Schaumburg’s Woodfield Mall. He is credited with founding the first day spas in the country, starting “Cuts for a Cause” which funds relief efforts, and presenting “Mario, Make Me a Model” as well as developing the Tricoci line of natural products. What has stayed consistent is his job description: “We try to keep our guests happy.”
The pitch at Wrigley Field called for developing new skills in a hurry. When the invitation arrived Tricoci turned to grandson Nico, age 12, and a member of a traveling baseball team to help him prepare. Tricoci told us:
“He said, ‘Grandpa, you can’t throw a ground ball, let’s practice’. I was very happy to have thrown a strike and to have many members of my family there, including Nico, to celebrate my 80th birthday. The Cubs players weren’t asking for haircut advice but several women in the office had photos to sign. The mayor has thrown out the first pitch, Michael Jordan, Mike Ditka—I am in great company.”
Tricoci’s beginnings remind us more of the Civic Opera House than Wrigley Field.
Montalto Uffugo: Tricoci’s birthplace
“I was born in Montalto Uffugo in the south of Italy, the setting of the opera Pagliacci which tells about an actual murder in 1865. There was a small theater next to my grade school. The stairs where the victim died are still there.”
Enrico Caruso as Pagliacci
Still so important to his Calabrian town, Ruggero Leoncavallo who composed Pagliacci, and Tricoci are the native sons listed on Montalto Uffugo’s promotions.
It was in Montalto Uffugo where Tricoci learned his trade.
“As a youngster I apprenticed with the local barber. I learned how to sweep the floors and fold the towels properly. In those days people came in for shaves every two days. I got to know them and put hot towels on their faces. The maestro made sure that everyone had unconditional service. I learned that guests, as I call them not clients, should be well taken care of by all.”
Tricoci is known to stop at his multiple locations across the Chicagoland area regularly.
“We are embracing the new challenges of COVID not fighting them and seeing it as an opportunity to do our best, to encourage vaccinations, protect our hairdressers and service providers and to concentrate on what matters. We have a focus on how you take care of your hair so it is clean and free of chemicals and sulfates. We have developed a natural fragrance that has the very pleasant scent of the genestra flowers that bloom along the curbsides of Italy. We love enhancing natural color and using multi-shadings for hair.”
“We create a look that the guest can maintain herself. You see a lot of long bobs today which are good because you can always wear it up in a loose ponytail with strands hanging down, and always good city hairstyles that can meet the wind.”
Mario and Cheryl Tricoci
A visit to a spa in Montecatini, Italy by Tricoci and his wife Cheryl, launched their first-day spa in the 1980s in Oakbrook.
“We had a lovely week there and kept talking about how we might come up with this kind of holiday one day at a time. At our first spa, we offered mud and clay treatments as well as facials. There was make-up, hair styling, nails, and at the end, our guests felt rejuvenated and ready to meet their husbands for dinner. Lately, our quiet zoom room has been very popular after a massage, and little naps occur.”
As a discrete host, Tricoci, who has appeared on Oprah and was once recognized as “entrepreneur of the year”, doesn’t name names of the important guests he has entertained at his salon.
“We do have parties for 16-20 people who take over the whole salon and can indulge in a great lunch and champagne. One of our favorite parties was for a group of professional athletes getting ready for the Super Bowl who had the spa all to themselves and watched a whole football game.”
Tricoci acknowledges that he has been “very successful in the beauty business”. The founder of 16 Tricoci Universities for beauty professionals, he summarized his philosophy.
“I hate when people make a request and get the response ‘no problem’. My approach is ‘what can I do and it is my pleasure to do so.”
Happy Birthday to a great pitcher and Chicago icon.