I’ve never been a spa guy.
Ball cap, old jeans, long johns, flannel shirts, wool socks, and in pajamas for as long as possible; tools and power tools, improvement projects, and constantly cooking in the kitchen; guns and knives and military history and cool hot rods at the car shows; the dive bar, the bar burger and beer not wine; dirt under fingernails, knife in my pocket, mud on my boots, and I enjoy the golf-course cigar and the crazy camaraderie of the bachelor party.
And I’m a barber guy, too. No appointments but clippers, scissors, hot facial towels, and then the straight razor on the neck were what I came to know.
So when I found myself in what was once known as a, “beauty salon,” I felt a bit more than just a little out of place.
But I wasn’t the only guy either at Frederick’s Day Spa Salon on Edgington Lane in the Woodsdale section of Wheeling.
It’s 10:30 a.m., and I see hair curlers, and I hear ocean waves. I’m told to go to the dressing room and remove everything except the boxers and to use the provided robe and slippers. And that was a first for me.
Kathleen directed to me to hang out a bit before my massage.
“To get your mind into it,” she said. “You need to relax your mind and your body. It works better that way.”
Does she know me? Does she not know that my way to make a living is to be constantly connected and seldom at ease?
I sat on a comfy chair to soak in my body, and I purposely took in the soft atmosphere, and the tunes chilled me out to the point where I felt a bit guilty for taking some notes about the experience. But hey, there is a magazine rack in the spa area.
That’s when I finally realized I was sitting in a familiar place – as far as longitude and latitude were considered anyway. Frederick’s current location is the same building where Zein’s Restaurant served the city for decades, and this spa was now situated where the constantly crowded bar once rested.
That recollection made me remember those frosted beer mugs, that chicken noodle casserole, and Walter and Luke and the rest of the Zein’s crew. That’s when I felt more at home than ever.
Kathleen, one of 35 employees at Frederick’s, then retrieved me and led me into the room where I would receive my first massage in a while. The cranium, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, and my back were soothed and popped and rubbed out.
When Kathleen informed m the session was complete, I asked, “So that was about a half an hour?”
“Oh no, Steve,” she replied. “That was an hour. The quickest hour of your life, right?”
And the owners of Frederick’s Day Spa Salon, Fred and Sharon DeChiazza, told me I am not alone these days when it comes to a “barber guy” entering this 30-year-old establishment.
“Because of the current trends and because more men are coming here these days, we are looking at the possibility branching out to open a men’s salon,” Fred reported. “If it happens, it would be close to this location, but it would have to be a separate facility completely. I think the time is right, so we are seriously thinking about it.
“It’s a new breed of men out there now,” he said. “We have always reacted to what the people want, and the men today are more into grooming than my generation ever was.”
“It is something that is changing,” said Sharon, an ’80 grad of Wheeling Park who continues serving eight of her long-term clients.
“The younger men do things like go to spas and get their pedicures, get their hair colored and styled, and they do the waxing, too.
“It’s what fashion dictates, and the older men have started doing those things, too,” she said. “It’s all about healthy lifestyles with the younger generations, and it’s spreading to those in the older generations. All people are taking better care of their bodies.”
Frederick’s has evolved since Fred opened his first shop in Elm Grove. Sharon soon joined him there, and soon after they expanded to spots within the Woodsdale Plaza that now house Pappa John’s Pizza and Spry’s Mail Center Plus. The couple then added even more services when moving to Mount DeChantal Road in Clator, but a dinner at Zein’s led to them to move yet again.
“Over a roast beef dinner one night we looked around the restaurant and wondered how we could make it work,” explained Fred, a 1977 graduate of Wheeling Park High. “We knew it was available at that time, so we made an offer. Trust me, it wasn’t a slam-dunk by any means, so we went into it thinking that if it is meant to be, it would happen.
“It all fell into place, too. We converted it in nine weeks with a handful of folks who transformed it into the salon,” he said. “We had to move fast because time is money, and we didn’t have a lot of it. And over the 10-year period since we have been here, we have continued to change somethings as we added new services.”
The fireplace in Zein’s main dining area is all that remains familiar to an old regular as I was. The bar is a different kind of spa these days, and hair styling, pedicure, manicure, and tattoo removal stations have replaced the booths.
Fredrick’s offers a guy like me not only the long-overdue massage, but also the old-fashioned buzz cut. Now, if I wanted coloring, smoothing therapy, a pedicure and/or a manicure, DETOXSOAK, eyelash extensions, a fantasy tan, hair extensions, body waxing, any laser services, threading hair removal, a seaweed body wrap, raindrop therapy, or a dead sea salt back exfoliation, I can come here, too.
“This is not what we expected to be doing when we first got started, but that’s because a lot of what we have today didn’t even exist when we first started. I mean, no one did body waxing back then,” Sharon said. “And I don’t think anyone around here was going to spas back then either. We were cutting, coloring, and styling hair back then.
“I do believe we were the first business to bring tanning beds to Wheeling, not that it was the healthiest thing we’ve ever done; we that know now,” she continued. “But then the industry started growing, and slowly we continued adding other services, and every time our business would grow with those additions.”
“There are a lot of salons in the city. Sometimes it appears that they are on every corner,” Fred said. “They cut hair like we did when we first started, but now we offer the whole package, and there’s a big difference.
“Many of our services are unique to the area, and that separates us from most of the others,” he said. “Everything that we offer is listed on our website, and it’s a long list because Frederick’s is all about a team that makes it all happen. We’ve been blessed because so many of our team members have been here for a long time. We value our staff. They make Frederick’s.”
The DeChiazzas, who celebrated their 39th wedding anniversary earlier this month, added the adult beverages and a bar area a few years ago because of clients who wished to stage get-togethers at Frederick’s for all kinds of occasions.
“That’s why we started out spa parties and our clients seem to really like those kinds of events,” Fred said. “We now have groups of women that come in or a few different couples who make it their date night. Sometimes the ladies make it the beginning of the bachelorette parties, so we thought it would be a good idea to begin offering the beers and the wines.
“We also have an after-work crowd that comes in, and sometimes they want to unwind with a drink. It’s just a nice touch to offer,” he continued. “It’s a nice fit to what we are selling here, and it adds some fun and relaxation to our services.”
The DeChiazzas and their business survived in Wheeling during an era when so many shops closed doors for the final time. When Fred first opened in Elm Grove, the city’s population was still close to 40,000, but the loss of more than 10,000 residents has not resulted in a decrease in clientele. Today, according to Fred, Frederick’s has more than 8,000 active clients and more than 3,000 visits per month.
Sharon and Fred, though, see their hometown far beyond their own success.
“I feel great about how the future is going now in Wheeling,” Fred said. “I’ve seen a lot since the 1980s, and I always heard that the last one left should turn the lights out. But I’m not hearing that anymore. I’m hearing the opposite now.
“We are fortunate to be able to have this business that provides a lot of jobs for our younger people. I think that’s the key,” he continued. “My family is proud to be a part of what’s taking place. My children who are in their 20s now wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, and I feel the future of Wheeling is going in that direction.
“I’ve seen more entrepreneurs coming to Wheeling to open start-from-scratch businesses just like the way we started our business,” Fred recalled. “Little by little we built it up through the years, and I think that is the future of the Wheeling area. I think it is stronger now than it has been over the last 30 years in the Wheeling area.”
(Photos by Steve Novotney)