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Mario Tricoci Explains Why He’s Buying Back His Beauty Empire

Earlier this week, the Tricocis bought back the majority share in their family’s booming salon and spa business. It’s been 17 years, but “the emotional responsibility never left.”

“I want at this point,” Tricoci says, “to just reinforce that I am forever a student of the beauty industry.”   Photo: Matt Ferguson/ExecPIX

The Mario Tricoci Hair Salon and Day Spa has a new owner that may sound familiar: The Tricoci family. In 2001, the Italian-born Mario and his spouse-slash-business-partner, Cheryl, sold a majority interest to outside partners and investors. But, as of February 28, the family is back in charge.

After launching the chain in the 1970s, the Tricocis continually pushed boundaries in the local beauty community and beyond. In their first decade of business, the duo opened a salon in Schaumburg’s Woodfield Mall, the first privately owned salon in a major shopping mall. The Tricocis went on to introduce the Midwest to its first-ever day spa, treating guests to Vichy showers and more in a tranquil Arlington Heights space.

“I think the legacy that my wife and I have created in Chicagoland, and perhaps in the country, is that we [brought] the services to the guest, rather than bringing the guest to a destination spa somewhere else in the world,” Tricoci says. 

The salon was also among the first to offer blow-dry styling services. “In the mid ‘70s, we put away our rollers and our clips and we created easy-care hairstyles that the guest could take care of without having to be attached to the hairdresser,” Tricoci says. It seems the beauty pro was ahead of his time: this was long before Drybar and other finishing salons started springing up on practically every city block.

On the day the reacquisition was announced, Tricoci chatted with Chicago magazine about reassuming business ownership in his seventies, the pink streaks in his wife’s hair, and why soy beans might be the future of hair products.

At this stage in your life, why is now the time to take back on the responsibility of owning a brand with 14 Chicagoland locations?

Let’s put it this way: the emotional responsibility has never left. I’m extremely passionate about what I’ve accomplished in terms of rendering service to our guests. My goal and my philosophy has been guest-first: of course we can and it’s our pleasure to do so. I have a commitment to our legacy and a commitment to the culture that we’ve created over the years. And basically, I want at this point to just reinforce that I am forever a student of the beauty industry.

What can you do now that you weren’t able to do previously, under the former partners?

I can basically make a decision to go forward in a direction, and I don’t need a committee. But, the partnership with [former partner] Elizabeth Arden and the previous investors was a very well-created organization—we did really well. We supported each other, and I was there to support the management at all times. But now, I’m a little more involved with the core business.

How has the business changed in the past 20 years or so?

I think that Mario Tricoci has elevated the day-spa culture and propelled the… competition to say, gee, I can do what they do. And it’s great, because the better the average spa and the average salon is, the better it is for the beauty industry itself. I appreciate that.

What are you seeing that’s fresh, in terms of industry trends?

My wife is a great-looking lady, and she’s got blonde hair with a lot of pink in it. It’s fresh; it’s exciting; it’s nouveau. And the thing is: our guests want to stay young. Today there’s no limit to age, is there? It doesn’t matter if you’re 18, 20, 30, 40 or whatever age you are. Great colors and great haircuts are for everybody, not just for the teenagers and the 25-year-olds. Someone who is more mature can have a haircut that a 15-year-old would wear as well.

As far as fashion is concerned, if you want to check out what’s fresh or new, you go check out a 13-year-old, a 15-year-old, and you catch their drift if you will. What are they passionate about and what can we create to make the young really part of the fashion world?

Do you still personally style anyone’s hair?

Of course, I do my wife’s hair. But I’m [also] going to be taking some guests personally from time to time. Every guest that I do will certainly be charged accordingly for the service, but I will not keep one dime of it. One hundred percent of the money [from work that I do] goes to charities. It will be charities mostly for children who have cancer, or for battered women, things of that are very dear to me.

In terms of your brand, what’s in store for new products or new locations?

We’re certainly going to have some of the Mario Tricoci products rejuvenated, including the fragrance that Mario Tricoci had in the men’s line. We’re going to take a look at the [rest of the] line, which we’ll rejuvenate… using soy beans or oils and things that are not really on the market yet, which we’re testing.

Are you thinking about a succession line for the future? Do you anticipate that Mario Jr. will get involved, for example?

[As CEO and managing partner at Aparium Hotel Group] Mario Jr. is a very successful businessman and entrepreneur in his own right, and he’s doing extremely well. However, If he ever wants to continue the Mario Tricoci Sr. legacy, he’s certainly welcome to it. I believe that his philosophy is very similar to what my philosophy: of course we can, and it’s our pleasure to do so. Having said that, who knows what the future brings? 

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