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Bail bondsman lights up the lives of many

Community Portrait
By: Michael Kirby
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Frank Calabretta just turned 70, but has no plans to slow down. As the owner of Frank Calabretta’s Bail House, he’s been helping citizens for over 35 years post a bail bond for jail release after an arrest. “I like people, I like helping people and have always enjoyed my job,” Calabretta said. “When I stop liking what I’m doing, I’ll stop.” Calabretta admits the business has changed, but he maintains a very strict code of professional and personal ethics, just as he has since he started in the business. Calabretta was born and raised in Chicago and met his wife, Anna Marie, when she came to the Windy City to attend a wedding. She was from San Jose, and they started traveling cross-country to see each other. In 1962 they married and settled in Chicago. “She never got used to the weather and never really liked Chicago,” Calabretta said. The couple moved to Auburn in 1970, with Frank Calabretta not really having an exact plan for employment. He dabbled in real estate and figured he could make a living. “Some friends from Chicago knew some people from Southern California who were in the business and thought that Auburn would be an interesting place to open up a bail bond business,” he said. He cut his teeth in Southern California learning the ropes of the bond business. In 1975 Frank Calabretta’s Bail House Bail Bonds was opened across the street from the Historic Auburn Courthouse. It was the first bail bond company in Auburn. In 1984, the successful bail house relocated to its current location on Atwood Road across the street from where the jail stands now. Calabretta adapted well to life in Auburn and became a very active member of his adopted community. Calabretta is Italian. His father immigrated to Chicago from Italy, and he learned to cook from his mother. Calabretta loves to cook and enjoys preparing his homemade tomato sauces and Italian meals for many local community groups. “I learned a lot about cooking from my mother. I still use her recipes,” he said. If you have attended functions such as the Italian Catholic Federation dinners, political fundraisers, or community dinners for service clubs, chances are you have tasted some of Calabretta’s delicious pasta meals. Next to the bail house, Calabretta converted a garage into a kitchen that would make many local restaurateurs envious, and most times something is cooking. “I have a commercial range, ovens, commercial refrigerators, everything I need to cook these meals,” Calabretta said. “These meals” can sometimes be dinner for more than 400 people. Calabretta also puts on quite a light show during the holidays on the grounds at the bail house and his display is well-known as one of the biggest in Auburn. Calabretta and his crew of helpers start stringing lights in October and are ready to flip the switch by Thanksgiving. Over 400,000 lights go into his display, which lines everything in the yard with incandescent brilliance — and pushes his electric bill into orbit. “On a good night we’ll get 150 to 200 cars pulling into the driveway, looking at the lights,” he said. “It is a sight to see.” Helping people through their most trying times is his business, and celebrating life with friends and community is what Calabretta is all about.