Next time you wander into Joe’s Barbershop and sit in that first chair to enjoy a classic strait razor shave by Joe Caccavella Sr. himself, take a glance at the black and white photo of a man on a donkey with piles of hay on either side of him. Yeah, that one, situated between the snipped braids of past patrons and the Godfather. It’s a photograph of Vittorino Caccavella in 1954, one year before he moved his wife, seven children (including Joe Sr.), and that first chair you’re sitting in to America. Yes, the chair came along, too.
After settling in Chicago’s “Little Italy” Vittorino obtained the license to become a Master Barber in 1956. Vic’s Barber Shop birthed at the corner of Chicago and Cicero.
Following his father’s footsteps, Joe Sr. graduated barber school and became a Master Barber in 1964. After spending two years drafted in the U.S. Army, Joe Sr. returned home and took over the second chair of Sam’s Barber Shop on California and Fullerton in Logan Square. After four years working for Sam, Joe Sr. bought the shop and turned it into Joe’s Barber Shop.
Seventeen years later, Joe’s moved to its current location (2641 W. Fullerton Ave.) but it remained a two-chair shop until Joe Jr. decided to follow the family legacy and become a barber as well.
This year marks the business’ 50th anniversary and they are marking it with an anniversary party at Chop Shop (2033 W. North Ave.) May 20, sponsored by Old Style. A family affair through and through, the barbers look back on their history, what got them here and the importance of Joe’s.
Passing Along the Barber Genes
Early on a Sunday morning when Joe Jr. was 15 years old, Papa Joe (as he fondly calls his father) cleaned out the family garage, carried an old barber chair out of the basement and set it up to give Joe his first haircut lesson.
“I was like, ‘I’m not a barber,’ and he was like, ‘It’s in your blood…’ So Papa Joe held a mirror while he sat there and showed me… I didn’t even know how to turn a clipper on,” Joe Jr. said.
Joe Jr. gave his first haircut to his father in the same barber chair his grandfather Vic brought with him to America. He continued to cut hair in that barber chair, upon his father’s demand.
“He’d have a haircut every two weeks and every two weeks he’d change it… So he taught me different things. All of a sudden, my uncle would come over and my dad would say, ‘Cut his hair,” Joe Jr. said. He even cut the mailman’s hair on occasion.
Twelve years later at the age of 27, Joe Jr. moved into the apartment behind the barbershop while working in marketing out in the suburbs.
“As a marketing guy I thought, this place is a gold mine, it just needs a little push,” Joe Jr. said.
So, he created the shop’s website and a MySpace page targeting young males that were into things like burgers and Harley Davidson.
“If I wasn’t around, the shop would’ve been closed years ago. I mean, my dad’s plan was to get old, decide he was done, sell the building and retire. Then I come along,” he said.
By 2010, Joe Jr. left marketing, got his barber license and returned to the barber chair making Joe’s Barber Shop go from a two-chair shop to three chairs.
Then gentrification hit Logan Square in two waves.
Witnessing Neighborhood Changes
According to Joe Sr., back when the shop first opened Logan Square was like it is now, but around the late to mid-90’s, it hit its bottom. Joe Sr. said that car jacks and shootings would happen everyday.
“Papa Joe says that people wouldn’t throw their garbage out, they’d just throw it in their back yard [because they were scared of the violence]. Everyone else did it so no one cared,” Joe Jr. said.
Then in the late 2000’s, new people moved in and wanted to build up the neighborhood and hold neighbors accountable.
“When I moved in here I was the first white guy on the block—I was the first tattooed guy on the block,” Joe Jr. said.
Then the second wave of gentrification hit Logan Square in 2013.
Business was booming, wait times were well over an hour and barbershops had become “cool again.”
Come 2015 and the shop grew from 200 square feet to 1500 square feet, adding four more barber chairs and 15 additional waiting seats.
During the expansion they used the same wood paneling, sinks, as well as the same chairs Grandpa Vic used in Italy.
“The chair he had in his shop [in Italy], he brought with him to America, it was made in Chicago in 1920 [by Paidar], which is a Chicago company. Somehow that chair made it to Italy, my grandpa cut hair in it in his shop, and then brought it back” Joe Jr. said.
The Legacy Continues
To this day, Joe Sr. is still cutting hair in his father’s chair. As a self-described workaholic, he can do a little bit of everything. At 71 years old, the man still chops his own wood for the fireplace in his backyard garden where his border collie Frankie roams and peaches the size of your hand grow plump. “You name it, I grow it,” Joe Sr said.
As for Joe Jr., he’s working on various projects (like his pomade side gig, Sixty8 Provisional Co.) while keeping the shop as authentic as possible.
Like barbershops that came before it, Joe’s remains a first-come-first-serve and cash-only environment.
“You can’t get more male than a barbershop. Guys come here to talk about the drama of their life… Just come when you have the time. Have a [local] beer, relax, talk to someone for a change, get off your phone for a second and have a conversation. That’s how it used to be,” Joe Jr said. “We have history and that’s something you can’t buy.”