is known around the South Side for his nestled among the bars and restaurants on Cicero Avenue.
But before the Oak Forest location, he opened his first salon in 1962 next door to a popular pharmacy in Skokie. It was decorated with church sconces and décor from his architect father’s connections with church design. Raised in the Sauganash area on the North side of Chicago, his father designed the local church and sent John to Notre Dame College Prep then on to Notre Dame. After one year at Notre Dame, Amico decided to attend cosmetology school during the summer. He would never return to college.
By 1965, he had three salons and looked into space at Ford
City Mall. He opened a massive salon in Peacock Alley, the lower level of Ford City Mall, quickly becoming the go-to place for hair. He remained in that spot, continuing to grow and expand for 22 years. The Ford City location served as a salon and school to a growing number of students.
All the while he stayed true to his passion, opening his first Hair Performers salon in 1973 to showcase his talented students. He chose the name of the salon chain because he wanted to bring "a little bit of showbiz to the hair business; after all, the stylist is like a performer and the chair and area around it their stage," said Amico.
In seven years he would have 50 Hair Performers salons nationwide.
In 1978, noticing the need for a quality local beauty school, he opened a school on 159th and Central Avenue. In 1985 he merged the two
schools and relocated to the current location at 153rd and Cicero Avenue, and has been educating students, or as he calls them, future graduates, ever since.
A father of five and grandfather of 17, he made sure every
one of his children first completed his courses at the beauty school prior to going off to college.
"I wanted to make sure they had a life skill, a trade, to help them become self-sufficient and sustain them while in college," he said. He explained that while other college students were living off of their parents, his kids earned their own spending money by cutting other students’ hair.
Amico’s grandson, Zach Schmitz, is currently attending the
school, and was present when Patch popped in. One regular customer insisted that only he color her hair.
"He always does such a wonderful job," she said.
Amico enjoys having his family attend his school.
"All of the students are like my children; I set my standards high and want the best for every one of my future graduates."
He mentioned that the school has a zero tolerance policy for drugs, alcohol and behavior. He expects dedication and professionalism from everyone who attends and in return he promises a top quality education in the field of cosmetology.
The school was abuzz with activity as students tended to the
hair needs of their customers. Students in one room off were being time-tested in foil application, a technique used to apply highlights. Other students made plentiful spiral curls to their mannequins.
Although Amico has trained many young students over the
years, the recent downturn in the economy has brought many mature individuals to his school. He has trained former firefighters, teachers, employees of streets and sanitation and even two former nuns that were now looking for new careers as stylists.
The tuition has held steady since 1994. He does not believe in inflated interest rates on student loans and offers scholarships and helps students attain grants to help finance their education.