LINCOLN SQUARE — The owners of a Lincoln Square hair salon and art gallery are christening their new location this weekend with their first in-person reception since the start of the pandemic.
The Rev. Billy and Amanda Simmons, a married couple, opened Rev. Billy’s Chop Shop at 4314 N. Lincoln Ave. in 2014. They’ve relocated a few blocks west to 2424 W. Montrose Ave.
The opening reception at the Chop Shop for artist Erin Garrity-Duffey will go 7-9:30 p.m. Sunday and double as a grand opening for the salon’s new location, Amanda Simmons said.
The salon half of the business — the Chop Shop — specializes in rock-‘n’-roll-style edgy haircuts, including chops, vivid colors and extensions that would not be out of place on a stage at a music festival like Pitchfork or Riot Fest, the couple said.
Billy Simmons started playing guitar when he was 9. Before opening the business with his wife, he was a session guitarist and had toured since he was 16, he said.
When the business opened, friends who Billy Simmons used to play with in bands would stop by for a haircut when they learned he was behind the chair. Since then, word of his skills has spread to other people in the music scene, and they’ve become regulars at Chop Shop, he said.
“When you’re a musician or any kind of entertainer, you’re broke most of the f—ing time. You can’t afford anything. But I can give them you multiple services, something they needed, at a reasonable price,” Billy Simmons said.
Some of Billy Simmons’ regulars even come in from Michigan and Wisconsin to have him style their hair, Amanda Simmons said.
“Word of mouth is everything for us because we don’t do a lot of heavy marketing,” Amanda Simmons said. “I think what really resonates with our clients is that we’re not the type of salon that is just getting people in and getting people out.”
The couple also prides themselves on having an inclusive environment with gender-free pricing in their services.
“We’re much more focused on creating a community and friendship with everyone that sits in our chairs,” Amanda Simmons said.
The other part of the business’s name — Rev. Billy — comes from the fact Billy Simmons is an ordained minister and doctor of divinity, the couple said.
Billy Simmons became a minister after he was involved in a motorcycle crash about 20 years ago. During three months of recovery, he got tired of watching TV, he said. He’s always had an interest in theology and figured he’d “go down a rabbit hole” that eventually led to him finding an online course where he could become a minister, he said.
“I like religion. I like theology and stuff. I just think it’s amazing. I’m still curious about it, even though I don’t believe in a lot of the components of it,” he said.
People ask if Billy Simmons is actually a reverend — and are surprised when the couple says “yes,” Amanda Simmons said.
“He’s married two friends of ours in the salon, which was pretty fun,” Amanda Simmons said.
After nearly eight years in business, it was time for an upgrade. The Lincoln Avenue space proved too small, limiting how many people could be inside and socially distanced during the pandemic, Amanda Simmons said.
“Moving forward, we knew we were going to need that extra space. It also just an older building, and we needed something kind of fresh and new to get to go to that next step with our business,” she said.
Anyone passing by the new shop on Montrose Avenue can see the business’s red and yellow neon sign in one of the windows. Inside, there’s a large ceiling mural of the Chicago flag from artist John Airo.
Since relocating, Amanda Simmons jokes people passing by who are unfamiliar with the salon may think the business is an auto repair shop or a barbecue joint based on its name, she said.
While the business doesn’t serve ribs, its name does draw from hot rod car culture and the idea of taking apart old cars and putting them back together, Billy Simmons said.
The art gallery always has been baked into the business, with the majority of featured artists being friends or Chicago-based creators, Amanda Simmons said.
The couple rotates the art at the salon every two months, and they don’t take a commission for any of the art sold, Amanda Simmons said.
“The artist is obviously creating that art, so we feel like we shouldn’t be pocketing any of that. It’s just a really great way for us to support the artist community in Chicago,” Amanda Simmons said.
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