Libertyville barbershop celebrates 50 years

Years of styling "Ivy League," "Ducktail," and other haircuts with quirky names helped Bill Anderson, owner of Libertyville's West Side Barber Shop, earn his nickname - "Barber Bill."

"A mother once brought her son in for a haircut, and she said, 'He calls you 'Barber Bill,'" said Anderson, now 83. "I think a lot of people call me 'Barber Bill.' That's who I was."

Fifty years ago, Anderson opened the barber shop, originally located on Milwaukee Avenue in Libertyville, with two partners. After 15 years, West Side Barber Shop moved to its current location at 429 E. Park Ave. Many of its original elements, including the chairs, benches and charming atmosphere, remain the same.

Despite setbacks through the years, West Side Barber Shop survived and has recently seen an increase in business, making its 50th anniversary all the more special.

"It's pretty miraculous that it's still here," said Jef Anderson, Bill's son.

Bill Anderson was born in Libertyville and grew up in Lincolnshire. He attended barber school in 1953. After graduating, he worked at a different barber shop for several years before opening West Side.

"You had to study facial muscles and stuff like that," he said. "We studied the bones in the body and how to shave properly."

Since its opening, West Side has operated as a traditional barber shop. Barbers are trained specifically to cut men's hair and facial hair, with the occasional women's short haircut.

Today, Anderson has refrained from cutting hair unless it is an emergency. He stops by the shop several times a week to make sure business is running efficiently.

With five other part-time employees, West Side Barber Shop welcomes waves of customers of all ages, mostly male.

But business hasn't always boomed. Soon after the shop opened in 1965, the Beatles' music and shaggy hair became popular around the world - putting barbers out of business everywhere.

"You can see the old movies with men and their hair hanging over their ears," Anderson said. "Barber shops were closing like crazy. I think 10,000 in Illinois went out of business."

The West Side Barber Shop remained open, but not without sacrifices from Anderson and his family. Over the years, he worked additional jobs,

"Those were tough years when the business was down," said Bill's wife, Lynda Anderson. "I used to take him to work at night at a factory."

The Andersons raised a family of four children in Libertyville, who helped behind-the-scenes at West Side. Jef Anderson, now 47, remembers going to the shop as a child.

"We actually shared responsibilities to clean the shop," Jef said. "I could never get the mirrors as clean as he wanted them to be. He would always see smears. We were always coming by, and they used to keep Glen Rock sodas in glass bottles and you could just help yourself to them. Everyone was friendly."

Throughout the years, the shop has continued to have a friendly atmosphere. Customers ranging from a former manager of the Chicago Bears to four generations of a family that owned a nearby drugstore, have been through its doors.

"You get to know people so well and find out a lot of intimate things about their lives you wouldn't think they would tell you," Anderson said.

He hopes West Side can continue its legacy, if not with one of his family members, then with someone else.

"We never gave up the shop," Anderson said. "It's nostalgia (that draws customers in). It's a trip back in time, and they get really good quality haircuts."

  Stylist Adriane Ebner, left, cuts the hair of Mark Oglesby of McHenry, and stylist John Cognac cuts Greg Mattson of Libertyville at West Side Barber Shop in Libertyville. Barber Bill Anderson, 83, has owned his shop on Park Avenue for 50 years. Gilbert R. Boucher II/
  Sign for West Side Barber Shop of Libertyville on Park Avenue. Libertyville barber Bill Anderson, 83, has owned his shop for 50 years. Gilbert R. Boucher II/
  West Side Barber Shop Assistant Manager John Cognac cuts the hair of Greg Mattson of Libertyville. Barber Bill Anderson, 83, has owned his shop on Park Avenue for 50 years. Gilbert R. Boucher II/
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