‘Like a good friend’: With barber’s retirement, Hanover Park’s oldest business closing

Hanover Park barber Tony Ruffolo’s retirement next Saturday not only will make members of his profession scarcer, but also close the village’s longest-operating business.

Ruffolo immigrated from Italy with his family in 1974, when he was 18 years old. He soon went to work for Tony Perri, who opened the Hanover Barber Shop in October 1963 in the Hanover Square Shopping Center on Barrington Road.

“It’s the only place I ever worked,” Ruffolo, 68, said of the shop that’s still at its original location.

  Tony Ruffolo gets a giant hug from Matthew Schroll after cutting his hair for the last time before his retirement. Schroll has been getting his hair cut by Ruffolo since he was about 6 years old. Brian Hill/

When Perri retired in 2001, Ruffolo took over the shop's day-to-day management. He assumed full responsibility for the business after Perri died the following year.

In consultation with his wife and sons, Ruffolo began seriously eyeing the end of 2023 as the right time to retire. But he kept his cards close to his chest until he began breaking the news to longtime customers late this fall.

He laughs at the thought that he’s done the first haircuts for not only the children of customers who got their first haircuts from him, but also their grandchildren.

“I tell them that means I’ve been here too long,” he said.

But he can’t deny he shares some of the bittersweet feelings those customers have been expressing since he announced his retirement.

“It is a sadness because I’ve been here for so long,” Ruffolo said. “For me, it was a hard decision. I loved the place.”

  Tony Ruffolo, in background right, speaks with Hanover Park Mayor Rodney Craig, who brought a cake to help celebrate the barber’s imminent retirement. The 60-year-old Hanover Barber Shop, which has been recognized as the longest still-operating business in Hanover Park, will close with Ruffolo’s retirement. Brian Hill/

A former Streamwood resident who now lives in Hampshire, Ruffolo doesn’t expect to be too idle in retirement. He’s considering spending a few months each year back in Italy, where he still has family, including two sisters.

Customers who’ve been visiting Ruffolo and his colleagues for decades have been making sure they get one last haircut in during the holidays and reminiscing amid the shop’s festive decor.

“My mom worked here in the ’80s,” said John Messamore of Roselle, who now brings his young kids to the shop. “They used to have seven chairs and it was packed. The people come from all over. It’s heartbreaking.”

  The Hanover Barber Shop is the longest operating business not only within the Hanover Square Shopping Center on Barrington Road, but in the entire village of Hanover Park. Founded by Tony Perri in October 1963, it will close with the retirement of current owner Tony Ruffolo on Dec. 30. Eric Peterson/

Regular customer Tom Fortney, a Hanover Park resident for 59 years and treasurer of the Hanover Park Lions Club, said the shop has collected glasses and hearing aids from its clientele for charity on behalf of the club.

“I’m going to be very depressed for a long time,” Fortney said of the shop’s closing. “It’s hard to find a good barber shop. It’s like a good friend. You never want him to go.”

Hanover Park Mayor Rod Craig brought Ruffolo and his staff a retirement cake on one of their last Saturdays -- and one day after the village closed on the sale of the shopping center, which it’s owned for the past 12 years.

“We’re going to hate seeing you move on, but the shopping center sold yesterday,” Craig said of the $7.25 million sale to a private owner.

“We appreciate you being a landlord here,” Ruffolo told the mayor.

  Tony Ruffolo cuts a customer’s hair during one of the final weekends at the Hanover Barber Shop in Hanover Park. Ruffolo took over the now 60-year-old business from its founder Tony Perri in 2001, having worked there as an employee since 1974. Brian Hill/

Loyal customers attest to the extremely poor state the shopping center had reached before the village’s intervention. But like many of the coifs he worked on through the years, Ruffolo remained a constant through thick and thin.

Hanover Township Supervisor Brian McGuire also joined the farewell festivities as both a public official and a longtime customer.

“I’ve been getting my hair cut here since I was 3 years old,” he said. “It’s a little bittersweet.”

Barber John Perri, the nephew of the shop’s founder and an employee on and off for the past 20 years, also is retiring. But fellow barber Andrea Pileggi, who married the founder’s grandson, will be moving on to another business in the new year.

  Barber Tony Ruffolo interacts with one of his customers last week in Hanover Park. The 60-year-old Hanover Barber Shop in Hanover Park will close at the end of the month. BBrian Hill/

She is the daughter-in-law of Schaumburg barber Dominic Pileggi, who’s also retiring and closing his D & D Barber Shop on Schaumburg Road next week. The business was named for him and his retired colleague Dominic Merenda in 1996, when they took over what had been Mike’s Barber Shop.

Dominic Pileggi began working there in 1965 and is about to turn 76.

“You hit a certain age, you get tired,” he said. “After 58 years, it’s time.”

Ruffolo believes the disappearance of traditional barber schools is a reason a new generation isn’t taking over traditional barber shops.

But Andrea Pileggi remains philosophical.

“I think grandpa would be happy with a 60-year run,” she said.

  Tony Ruffolo cuts Matthew Schroll’s hair on a rainy Saturday in Hanover Park. Schroll has been getting his hair cut by Ruffolo since he was about 6 years old. Brian Hill/
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