Before Eddie Biro cut hair in Skokie, he worked construction. The experience paid off handsomely.
"I built everything - new plumbing, floors - everything," Biro said, gesturing to his salon. "I did it all by myself. It saved a lot of money."
With more than 70 hair salons in town, Biro is among the most sought-after barbers in the village.
But Biro's journey didn't begin and end with construction jobs and hair.
The Assyrian immigrant first began cutting hair for the Syrian Army during the 80s. Cutting a soldier's hair had its benefits.
"Every day I would give five or 10 haircuts," Biro said. "That's how I became a professional."
Biro said it was his friend who first introduced him to cutting hair.
"When I joined the Army, my friend told me to come with him and cut hair," he said. "That's how it all started."
In early 2000, Biro came to Skokie with his family, and worked construction for six months before getting his Visa and hair stylist license. Almost immediately afterward he was hired at Betty and Nicks Hair Salon, where he became the go-to guy for men's haircuts.
During his days there, Biro's customers would wait about 30 minutes before being seen. If it was around Easter or Christmas, the wait for a haircut could take hours. There were seldom any complaints for those that waited.
The demand for Biro was so high that his clients would clog the front of Betty and Nicks while waiting for a cut. Needless to say, the manager came up with a solution: Move Biro to the back of the store, give him about 500-square-feet of space and about a dozen chairs.
It wasn't unusual to see the hair salon empty in the front and busy in the back, with almost all customers waiting for their time with Biro.
That was pre-2010, before Biro decided to open his own shop down the street with his sister, Kefah Abdie.
He also developed a niche during his time at Betty and Nicks, which he carried to his own shop - threading eyebrows - a unique craft where a piece of string is crossed over to pluck eyebrows and give them a refined, clean shape.
"It is very tricky and it is very important," Biro said about threading eyebrows. "Every minute you look at the mirror you look at your eyebrows - they have to the same shape, same level - everything."
Despite moving down the street from his former employer, Biro and his sister are doing quite well. Biro said "business is really good."
"I thought about opening my own shop for four years," Biro said. "My friends would encourage me, but it wasn't easy. I built my customers at Betty and Nicks ... After four years though, it was worth it."