Salon owner survives recessions, stays devoted to customer service

Madelin White and family started working in business in 1974

Staff writerJanuary 26, 2014 

Madelin White is celebrating 40 years in the cosmetics and beauty products at her Merle Norman Cosmetics, Wigs and Day Spa located in Lacey.

STEVE BLOOM/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Madelin White, the owner of Merle Norman Cosmetics, Wigs & Day Spa, celebrated 40 years of business this month, no small feat for a retailer in this economy.

White, along with her parents — the three of them deciding to open a beauty salon because it was viewed as recession-proof — opened the business on Jan. 15, 1974.

White, who has long since bought out her parents and runs the business in Lacey, said she once asked former Washington state chief economist Arun Raha how many recessions had elapsed since 1974. Seven, he told her.

But none has been harder than the current recession, largely because of state worker furloughs and the effect that had on consumer spending, she said.

Through it all, though, she has emphasized the importance of customer service, helping her to compete with other retailers that have come and gone.

“I give people self-confidence,” she said, adding that they can come to her business for cosmetics, a wig, a facial or a makeover and leave with their head held high.

“I truly believe that,” White said.

Jan Teague, a longtime customer and the current president and chief executive of the Washington Retail Association, said she appreciates White’s skin-care expertise.

Teague said skin constantly changes and that it doesn’t change uniformly, sometimes resulting in parts of the face, for example, that can be dry in one place and oily in another.

But White can help, she said.

“She’s someone who understands skin care,” Teague said.

She also added that she admires the work White does with cancer patients.

For more than 20 years, White has taught a class called “Look good, feel better,” helping female cancer patients camouflage the effects of cancer with cosmetics, wigs and other beauty tips.

“I want them to have a good time in an otherwise hard time,” she said. “They walk out the door with a little color.”

MERLE NORMAN COSMETICS, WIGS & DAY SPA

Owner: Madelin White

Location: 3925 Eighth Ave. SE, Suite F, Lacey

Type of business: Beauty salon

Years in business: Owner Madelin White celebrated 40 years in business Jan. 15.

Employees: Three. Four independent contractors also work at the same business.

Online: Merle Norman Olympia Facebook.

Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays.

Advice to business owners: You need perseverance, enough capital to last you three years, and you really have to want to be in business, White said.

Did you know? White has been active in the community over the years. She is the past president of the Washington Retail Association, past board president of Family Education and Support Services and the current president elect of the Lacey Chamber of Commerce. Merle Norman is a longtime maker of cosmetics. Although her business operates under the Merle Norman brand, it is individually owned.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403
rboone@theolympian.com

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