Gullo celebrates 50th as opera house’s resident barber

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A half century at any job is something to celebrate, but Sam Gullo is marking five decades as the barber at one of Chicago’s most iconic buildings, the Civic Opera House, home of the Lyric Opera.

Gullo and his family arrived in Chicago from Caccamo, Sicily, in 1961. “I came here with my father and brother,” Gullo says from his shop on the 15th floor of the historic building. “My father worked in Chicago for two years, then returned to Sicily to bring us back. We first settled at Ohio and Leavitt streets.”

Gullo learned his trade from his older brother, who also tipped him off that the plum location at the opera house was available for purchase. “I bought the shop on May 28, 1973,” Gullo says.

Over the decades, Gullo has coiffed many a luminary, including conductor Sir Andrew Davis, Bishop Edwin Michael Conway, legendary candymaker Salvatore Ferrara, Illinois Appellate Court Judge Mel Jiganti, and mogul/philanthropists Robert Lurie and Richard Notebaert.

Every day, Gullo walks along marble floors, past 40-foot columns and beneath crystal chandeliers covered in gold leaf on the way to his shop. But it’s the people that have made Gullo’s job so special.

“I love to come to work,” Gullo says. “Every day, I meet and talk to people in the arts and finance, lawyers and judges. People ask me if I will retire, and I say, ‘Why?’ To me, there is no more interesting place to be than here.”


— David Witter


About David Witter

David Anthony Witter is a Chicago public school teacher and a freelance writer and photographer. Along with William Dal Cerro, he is the author of "Be-Bop, Swing and Bella Musica: Jazz and the Italian American Experience." He has also written "Oldest Chicago" and "Chicago Magic, A history of Stagecraft and Spectacle." His work has appeared in Fra Noi, the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Living Blues, New City, Chicago Reader, Bay Area Music Magazine, Primo, Ambassador and Italic Way. He also has entries in "The Italian-American Experience, an Encyclopedia," and "BluesSpeak, The Best of the Chicago Blues Annual."

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