Spanning over four decades, four generations and seven recessions, Madelin White has grown Merle Norman Cosmetics Wigs, and Day Spa to become a one stop shop for beauty services, products and advice. Madelin is appreciative of the beauty community cultivated within her shop and for the friendships she has formed through her business. After 45 years, Madelin continues her mission to provide a variety of top-notch beauty and relaxation services, while also maintaining excellent customer service.
Madelin White’s father first had the idea to open a salon. After her father’s suggestion, Madelin and her parents entered the beauty business while still working for the state. The family chose the beauty industry because Madelin’s father, who grew up during the Great Depression, hypothesized that women would always want to look their best, even in a tight economy. “My dad and I would meet usually once a week for lunch and my father said, ‘Madelin, I think you, your mom and I should go into a business,’” explains Madelin White. “45 years ago, in January, on a very snowy day, we opened up our first business.” Madelin eventually bought her parents out. However, her Dad did build two of her shops for her.
After raising her sons in the business, Madelin now also has her granddaughter working with her in the shop.
Merle Norman Cosmetics, Wigs, and Day Spa has seen several different formats and locations since 1974, including shops inside the South Sound Center and the Capital Mall. The business has been at its current Lacey location for over 10 years. Madelin has owned various beauty salons and businesses in addition to a Merle Norman store, but during an economic downturn decided to consolidate all of her beauty businesses and services under one roof. “Merle Norman as a cosmetic line, has evolved and I have evolved as well,” says Madelin. “What I discovered through one of the recessions, was that just having Merle Norman wasn’t going to be enough. I had added wigs to my stores in the early 1980s and when I added the wigs, that brought in a whole lot more people. As things kept going, I added hair dressers and I added an esthetician who does facials and waxing. I also added massage therapy and kept the business growing.”
One of the unique aspects of running a business for 45 years is seeing several generations of clients come through the shop doors. Customers of Merle Norman have become close friends for Madelin and not only is the Merle Norman salon a family affair, but so is a trip to the shop for many longtime customers. “My favorite part is the exact same reason I have a hard time saying I’m going to retire,” says Madelin. “My favorite part is the people I have developed friendships with, who started as my clients 45 years ago. I am now working with great-grandchildren of the people who were my clients 45 years ago. So, I’ve been through the great grandparents, the grandparents, the daughter and now the grandchildren. And that’s the hardest part for me to give it up. There’s a family in McCleary and their whole family, different generations, are my clients and I feel part of their family. Even the great-grandmother that’s there, they bring her in when they can, just so she can see me. There are so many families like that.”
Changing Styles, Not Customer Service
To keep up with current techniques and styles, Madelin and her team take courses and continue to learn more about their respective craft to provide the best quality services. Keeping up to date with current hair styles, makeup trends and massage techniques, is an important goal for Madelin and her team. “We want to continue to grow,” says Madelin. “Merle Norman products have evolved tremendously and as the company has grown, I’ve made sure that I’ve stayed up on everything. I’ve gone to classes and made sure that other people who work here are feeling the same way. That they are evolving, too.”
One of the constants of Madelin’s shop has been to provide the best service and most enriching experience for Merle Norman customers. Although locations and styles have changed, Madelin’s relationship with her clients, and her dedication to the beauty community will always remain a hallmark of the business. “I have the best clients,” says Madelin. “And one of the things that I aimed for when I started my business is, I needed a point of difference. A reason why they buy from me rather than going to the department store. My difference became giving the best service of anyone in town. Everyone who works here also maintain the great customer service. I believe that is why we have I’ve these long- time customers. Helping people and making them feel better by helping them look better is the best feeling.” Madelin also used her skills to help cancer patients. She taught classes for 27 years at the hospitals helping them learn how to camouflage for the possible side effects of Chemotherapy and Radiation. She is currently helping get those classes up and running again after some changes in the program.
Reflecting on her decades in the beauty business, Madelin has a few things she would tell her younger self. Introducing skincare and beauty services to men earlier on would be one piece of advice. Combining the Merle Norman shop and hair salon much sooner would also be something she would have recommended. The biggest piece of advice for anyone looking to start their own business would be to practice patience and allow time to grow a clientele. “Looking back, I would remind myself as a young person that it doesn’t happen overnight,” explains Madelin. “In fact, I tell people when they ask me about starting a business that you should have enough money to back yourself for three years, because it takes time to start making money.”
To learn about Merle Norman and the services offered, visit the Merle Norman Cosmetics, Wigs, and Day Spa website.
Merle Norman Cosmetics, Wigs, and Day Spa
3925 8th Ave SE, Lacey
Monday – Friday: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.