Monday, February 16, 2009

This month's Person You Should Know: Michael Pugliese - Cutting hair and solving problems one customer at a time..

From the early morning until evening, six days a week, Michael Pugliese helps to solve all the world’s problems from his business in Norridge. No, he’s not a philosophy teacher at Ridgewood High School, dealing with hypothetical scenarios. He’s the proprietor of Michael’s Barber shop, just down the street from Ridgewood.

Located at 7539 W. Montrose, the barber shop has been a Norridge institution since 1956. There, 47-year-old Pugliese, along with fellow barbers Joe Briguglio and Tony Cucinella cut the hair of clients aged 1 to 100.

A simple barber shop lined with auto and sports magazines, newspapers and a television tuned to the local news or sports action, Michael’s is a place for customers to catch up with each other, share local gossip and also to vent about things.

“We solve all the problems in the world here,” Pugliese joked. When asked to give an example, Pugliese declined, exhibiting a sort of attorney-client privilege between him and his customers.

While customers come from as far as Schaumburg and Mundelein, Pugliese said most of his clientele are split between Norridge residents and Chicago’s Northwest Side, many of the latter being city workers. Pugliese estimated that it takes about 20 minutes to cut the average customer’s hair, and while some are in and out for a quick haircut, others linger to shoot the breeze, especially in the weeks before Christmas, when he sets up a table to share homemade cookies and wine.

Pugliese came to America in 1984 from Calabria, Italy, and has been cutting hair since he was a young child. “In Italy, after school I would work for the local barber. I would sweep the floor of his shop, watch how he worked and then learned how to cut hair,” Pugliese said.

Upon arriving in America, Pugliese worked at the now shuttered Quasar factory in Franklin Park while taking part-time night classes to earn his barber license. Two years later, armed with his barber license and a better handle on the English language, Pugliese resumed his life’s passion, working as a barber at a shop in Franklin Park.

In 1997 Pugliese ventured off on his own, buying what is now Michael’s Barber Shop. Initially handling all clients, Pugliese hired Joe Briguglio six months later and the pair is still working side by side. In addition, Tony Cucinella also cuts hair three days a week. And while the shop has always been busy, the size of the shop always has been more than he needed. So, in 2003 Pugliese remodeled the back of his shop and began renting it to Eva Luviano, who operates Eva’s Hair Salon. Eva’s is an appointment-only salon that caters to mostly women. The two shops share the entrance, but nothing more --the waiting areas of both shops are far enough apart where the mostly-male clientele at Michael’s can feel safe talking and joking amongst themselves and not feel like they are being spied on by friends of their wives!

Since he began cutting hair, Pugliese said prices have increased a bit, [it is $15 for a haircut at Michael’s] and styles have come and gone.

“Kids hairstyles change a lot… short, long, spiked, etcetera. You have to be with the times,” Pugliese said.

Standing on your feet six days a week may seem hard, but Pugliese said he loves working for himself. Luckily for his customers, Pugliese says he has no plans to put his shears down anytime soon.

“You gotta love your job because you’re not going to become rich cutting hair,” Pugliese said. When asked how long he pictures himself working, Pugliese laughed and said he’ll probably retire in 20 to 25 years.

(Michael Pugliese and Joe Briguglio)

When he’s not working, Pugliese enjoys spending time with his wife Marisa and three children, ages 8, 10 and 12 at their home in Norridge. He also is an avid supporter of Ridgewood High School Athletics and soccer fan.

Michael’s Barbershop is located at 7539 W. Montrose. Hours are 9a.m. – 6:30 p.m. Mon-Friday and 9am-5pm on Saturdays. Walk-ins only. Phone is 708.583.9739.

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