Snipping into the sunset: The Dino's trio retire

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A nice man is moving on to a new role in life: Retirement, as a doting grandfather of two. Dino Dini, 66, owner of Dini's Barber Shop, 425 N. Marion St. (near Chicago Avenue), finally puts the clippers away after 40 years of cutting, combing, wheeling the chair around and handing over the mirror to newly shorn customers.

An old-time red, white and blue barber pole spirals endlessly upward in the front window as retro music?#34;really retro?#34;comes from the retro radio. Would you believe Doris Day singing Secret Love and Dean Martin doing Strangers in the Night, followed by Three Coins in a Fountain?

First thing you see on entering is a glass case countertop revealing general bric-a-brac and postcards pasted from under, many presumably sent by customers over the years attesting to cordial relations between the clientele and its longtime barber. Inside, one feels at once comfortable and at ease. As the soft strains of Perry Como blend with the steady, somnolent snip-snipping of scissors, one becomes easily lulled. Once again, the cozy, three-chair operation has afforded a pleasant and relaxing interlude in an otherwise hectic day.

For the past 15 years the second and third chairs have been manned by Tony Battaglia, age indeterminate, and Frank Celestin, world's youngest and fittest 89-year-old. This tonsorial trio has worked together five days a week for a decade and a half. Barber shops are getting rare, multiple-barber barbershops even rarer still.

Come Sept. 17, Tony and Frank plan to retire along with the honcho of the place. How have they gotten along so well over the years? The second word of this article is "nice," and it applies to all three. Not cloyingly nice, or as-a-duty nice or goody-two-shoes nice but genuinely nice.

As much as anything, this?#34;and good haircuts?#34;have kept a lot of customers coming back. (That plus lollipops for the kids.) Which is also why Dino, Tony, and Frank will be missed.

Said proprietor Dino, "I came to Chicago from Lucca, Italy, when I was 18 [1956] and worked eight years in a barber shop on Devon. Both my parents had been barbers. My wife, Rosalia, our two kids lived on Lombard Street here in Oak Park for years, then we moved to Naperville. I'll miss a lot of wonderful people here.

"I love my wife, and I love my life," he added, beaming with contentment. "I've been blessed."

Most of those leaving the place shook Dino's hand and wished him well. Someone said, "I'm saving my last haircut for you." And customer Al Swanson chimed in, "When I moved into the neighborhood, I asked a high school kid where there was a good place to get a haircut. "Dini's," he said. "I kept coming back for 31 years."

The barber pole, by the way, will go with the boss.

?#34;Bob Sullivan


Trustee Baker, stalling specialist?

While perusing the web, we happened to come upon Trustee Geoff Baker's website?#34;completely by accident, of course, after someone tipped us off?#34;which thoroughly describes his law practice. Upon closer investigation, we discovered a couple sentences we suspected would be of interest to the Oak Park insider: "In addition to his commercial litigation practice, Geoff has also been very effective in assisting property owners to oppose and stop large scale commercial developments that would negatively impact their property values and the environment. To date, Geoff has successfully stalled projects worth over $400 million."

And what does that mean, we wondered? "Stalling" municipally-subsidized projects in other suburbs?

Well, not exactly?#34;and not in Chicago-area communities?#34;explained Baker.

"It would be things that would strike an objective person as 'this is crazy,'" he said. With some exceptions, including a million-square-foot grocery distribution center, most such stalled projects are in rural areas, he said.

Some involve misplaced wind farms and, specifically, a development that threatened the survival of bald eagles, he said.

Baker said the figure certainly doesn't tie into Whiteco, the future of which he, like the rest of the board, is remaining tight-lipped about.

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