By Alex Hutton
Over the course of his five decades in Chicago, Frank La Fronza has become a staple of the city thanks to his skill as a barber and history of catering to celebrity clients. Today, he runs a spa and salon in Illinois Center, offering a wide range of services. La Fronza sat down with Medill Reports to discuss his formative years in Italy, his career and the current state of his work.
FRANK LA FRONZA (singing): Luck be a lady tonight!
FRANK LA FRONZA: The reason I’m successful is because a lot of my clients follow me for a long time. I’ve got a clientele, follow me for 50 years. I don’t want to give up my age, but for 50 years.
NARRATION: Spa Di La Fronza, located at Illinois Center on East Wacker and run by its namesake Frank La Fronza, aka Chicago’s celebrity barber.
FRANK LA FRONZA: You can’t say no to the clientele you build up over the years. You know, when they call and say, “I want a haircut, Frank,” you know, you become a friend with the customers. They’re not just customers after a while.
NARRATION: Born in Italy, La Fronza followed family tradition by becoming a barber, taking up the same profession as his late uncle who he was named after. He has worked in the United States for more than 55 years.
FRANK LA FRONZA: You got to keep steady every day. You know, it’s memorable all the time. I get up in the morning and I come to work. That’s a good memory, you know? Every day is — you in a business, you got — if you really like what you’re doing, you like your customers, then you build it up. I want to please the customers, but sometimes, when they’re vain, you’ve got to read between the mind of what they want, and so you’ve got to be very careful and then you can see the smile on the customers. Then I say, “Oh, he probably likes what I’m doing.”
JOHN MANN: He cuts my hair better than anybody ever has. And we’ve become friends and we are on the same page when it comes to my hair. And now I bring my son here — who’s 17 — and he’s been coming here for the last three years and gets exactly what he wants.
FRANK LA FRONZA: I like people. I like conversation, communication. I want them to look good, I want to look good and I can’t stay home. I got to work, and it makes me feel like stay younger. Yeah, that’s why I’m doing this and I hope I can do this as much as I can.
NARRATION: For Medill Reports, I’m Alex Hutton.