While Merle Norman Cosmetics Inc. is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, Merle Norman Cosmetics Studio of Jacksonville is celebrating its own anniversary, according to owner and manager Cheryl Grabow.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Cheryl said of her 10th year as manager/owner of Merle Norman in Jacksonville. “We’re seeing younger girls all the time. The free makeovers and free facials are some of the most important things we offer.”

Indeed, the same philosophy that began with Merle Norman Cosmetics Inc. has been with the company since Merle Norman herself began it in 1931, giving customers cosmetics they could try before purchasing them, dubbing it the first company with a “try it before you buy it” slogan.

It all started with a big dream during the Great Depression era, when America was looking for big dreams and even bigger opportunities, Cheryl explained.

With Merle’s own studio and laboratory, she also began packaging and selling her own products.

According to promotional material, Merle Norman, who was born near Logansport, Indiana in 1887, started her cosmetics company with only $150 in capital and “the moral support and help of her parents and her husband” in a vacant garage in Ocean Park, California, the state her and her husband moved to after they were married.

“She (Merle) felt every ‘free’ customer would become a paying customer if they liked the results. And they did,” according to the promotional booklet.

The corporate headquarters are still in California to this day, and there are more than 2,000 studios across the United States, all independently owned and operated, Cheryl added.

“It was one of the few things that gave women a real opportunity to build their own business. It’s like having a personal consultant,” Cheryl said of the business.

Prices have also stayed the same, Cheryl said.

“The longest standing foundation is called powder base with an ESP of 52. It’s still $15.50. It’s been that way for over 50 years,” she said.

The company still carries its family line, with the basic cosmetics of foundations, moisturizers and other skin products, while adding a new Luxiva line of cosmetics and skin care products that takes advantage of new technology — all moderately priced and effective, according to Cheryl.

“The Luxiva line may be for those who need more effective results,” Cheryl said. “With the newer technology of skin care, this line repairs and prevents damage and may be for middle aged women because it has more to offer them. Merle Norman does have products for sensitive skin care, changing and mature skins, and people of all colors. It’s really designed for everybody.”

Besides free makeovers and facials, the store also offers special event makeovers and portraits.

“The special event makeovers are a free make over, but we request a minimum purchase,” Cheryl explained.

Cheryl said she has enjoyed being the manager and owner of a studio where the business is so personal to her customers.

“The business here has grown 50 percent since 2003. You get attached to your business,” Cheryl said. “You get real close to the people. One of my goals is to really make the customer feel comfortable with experimenting with make-up. It’s really fun.”

The Jacksonville store, which has been located in the old Sear’s building at 105 E. Commerce St. for 40 years under three different owners, is open Monday through Friday 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to approximately 3 p.m. Appointments can be made, but are not necessary, and the store is offering special discounts to celebrate the anniversary, Cheryl added.

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