Cheryl Tricoci, who with husband Mario Tricoci founded a beauty empire, has died at 76

She pushed to diversify the business, Mario Tricoci Salon & Spa, recognizing early on that spa services would become as important as a haircut or blow dry.

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Cheryl and Mario Tricoci.


Cheryl Tricoci, who founded a beauty empire with her husband Mario Tricoci, died Monday of cancer at 76.

“She was beautiful inside and out,” said Beverly Lesmeister, a friend since childhood and senior guest relations manager for Mario Tricoci Salon & Spa, which has 13 locations in the Chicago area and 1,300 employees.

“They were a true partnership, a wonderful, loving couple,” said the couple’s friend Mark J. Ballard, a retired Cook County judge.

They were married for 51 years. She died at their Chicago home, Ballard said.

Her husband was expert at cutting hair but often credited their success to her business leadership. She recognized early on that spa services like facials, manicures and massages would become just as important to customers and salon owners as a haircut or blow dry.

In the 1970s, she helped him establish their Mario Tricoci location at Woodfield Mall. Her family said she hired renowned interior designer Richard Himmel to create the look at the salon, which they believe was the first privately owned hair salon in a major shopping mall in North America. In 1986, she helped open their first day spa in Arlington Heights.

It was Mrs. Tricoci’s idea to have their pedicure technicians trained by podiatrists. She also introduced skin treatments like pumpkin facials in the 1980s, according to her family.

“Our mom balanced effortless grace with fierce tenacity and was omnipotent in every aspect of her life,” Mario Tricoci Jr. said in a written statement. “She was strikingly devoted to her family and friends, loved harder than most and lived life with an abundantly grateful heart.”

Mrs. Tricoci was well-known in charitable circles. In 2018, she helped establish a beauty salon at Misericordia, a center on the North Side for people with developmental disabilities, where residents could be styled by professional hairdressers and students from Tricoci University of Beauty Culture.

Mario and Cheryl Tricoci with Sister Rosemary Connelly (center), Misericordia’s longtime leader.

Julie O’Sullivan

“She was filled with joy to see the smiling faces of our children and adults as they left the salon,” according to a written statement from Sister Rosemary Connelly, Misericordia’s longtime leader. “Cheryl and her husband Mario gave dignity to our young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and they really made a difference by improving the quality of their life.”

Mrs. Tricoci also was a longtime supporter of Bear Necessities, a pediatric cancer foundation. She helped arrange makeovers for sick children and their families.

“Cheryl would invite them in to our salon, maybe they’d have manicure, pedicure parties,” Lesmeister said. “We would have lunch and little gift bags.”

She bought tables at Bear Necessities fundraisers and art that was created by young cancer patients at auctions.

“Cheryl and Mario probably have the largest collection of patient art of our children,” said Bear Necessities founder Kathleen Casey. “Each year, they purchased as much as they could. She really embraced our children and the needs of our children.”

She got to know Tricoci employees, often attending their weddings or baby showers, according to her family.

Mario and Cheryl Tricoci at the Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation’s Bear Tie Ball in 2015.

Ramzi Dreessen, Sun-Times Media

Mrs. Tricoci grew up on the Southwest Side, the daughter of a florist. She attended St. Daniel the Prophet grade school and Kelly High School, Lesmeister said.

Her husband, an immigrant from the province of Cosenza, Italy, started his first salon in 1963 in Villa Park. He met his future wife, who’d been a runway model, when she was a director of training at the Patricia Stevens modeling school.

“She was so creative with makeup and hair, with everything,” Lesmeister said. “Cheryl was always a step ahead with fashion. Her hair was always gorgeous.”

“They got married, and she started helping with the books,” she said. “He just had a few small salons at the time and a cosmetology school. She started doing the bookkeeping, and she told him, ‘Mario, you should really [offer] makeup.’

“She did that, and then she had one spa room in their first really big salon at Woodfield Mall. She had a facial room, and it just expanded, and she was selling spa days.”

In addition to her husband and son Mario, who is in the hotel and hospitality business, Mrs. Tricoci is survived by their son Dr. Michael Tricoci and five grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending.

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