By Amye Anderson
UCBJ Managing Editor
JAMESTOWN – What began as an opportunity for two sisters and their mother to work and travel together became a business where everyone, including the customers they serve, is considered family.
“In our business, you may walk in for the first time as a customer but you will leave as our friend,” said Denise Williams-Campfield, co-owner of the Jamestown Merle Norman Cosmetics studio. “We love our customers and love to visit with them as well as celebrate life events with them and even cry with them during their hard times.”
Denise, along with her sister, Debbie Williams, and their mother, Maudean Williams, have helmed the local studio as co-owners for the last 30 years – a milestone they are celebrating this weekend.
The local studio was originally opened in 1962 – at a time when few women were business owners – by Hazel Garrett and Creola Pile. But, by 1987, Pile had already retired and Garrett was beginning to make plans to retire as well. By October, the studio was up for sale.
“Mother mentioned the business opportunity to Daddy (Ray Williams),” Williams-Campfield said. “He thought it would be a great opportunity for us.”
Once the legal paperwork was complete, and with the official approval from Merle Norman Cosmetics, Inc., the ladies boarded a plane bound for the company’s headquarters in Los Angeles, Calif., to complete two weeks of training.
“What an exciting time those two weeks were of learning skin care, makeup artistry and business practices,” Williams-Campfield recalled. “We toured the factory where the products are created, produced, packaged and shipped. We were certified makeup artists and ready to go to work!”
The location of the studio has changed a few times since then. The current location, at 211 N. Smith St., has been the studio’s home since 2002. The 2,500 square-foot building, once home to an auto parts store, was gutted and ready just in time for the rollout of the new Merle Norman studio look.
“Since we are in the ‘makeover’ business we often laugh that we did a makeover on our building,” Williams-Campfield said. “It was a large investment for us but we felt the ladies of our community should have an updated and nice place to shop.”
Their work has taken them across the US. Over the years, the ladies have attended conventions and events in the cities of Anaheim, Chicago, Dallas, Hawaii, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orlando, New Orleans, and Washington D.C.
“Merle Norman has provided us the opportunity to not only work together but travel,” Williams-Campfield said. “Our Dad never really liked to travel and Mother keeps a bag packed, just in case a trip comes up!”
While fashion and makeup trends have changed over time, Williams-Campfield says their love for their business hasn’t.
“We love our business as much today as we did in 1987,” she said.
“The friendships we have made is probably the most rewarding for all three of us. We have some really special people in our lives that we would probably have never crossed paths with if it had not been for Merle Norman.”
The ladies also work to give back to the community they love through donations to schools, organizations, benefits, sports programs, and church programs.
In addition to offering cosmetics, the studio carries several popular fashion and accessory lines including Vera Bradley, Life is Good, The Home T, Southern Lady, Lenny & Eva, Lizzy James, Annaleece, and 2 Queen B’s.
“We think the ladies will be even more excited to see what is planned for the future,” Williams-Campfield said. “We are constantly on the search for new and exciting lines to carry to meet the needs of our community and one thing is for sure – we plan on providing the same customer service that we have provided for the past 30 years and are looking forward to the next 30!”
The Jamestown Merle Norman Cosmetics studio is hosting a public celebration event Saturday, Oct. 21 from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. with plenty of prizes and discounts on select items. Visit their Facebook page for more information.