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story.lead_photo.caption Lynn Baird Photo by Kelsi Brinkmeyer / Texarkana Gazette.

Customers in need of a new skincare routine or makeup tips for a special event can enjoy one-on-one attention while shopping at the local Merle Norman store. Owner Lynn Baird and her husband purchased the store at 2844 Richmond Road a couple of years ago from her mother, Marion Williams, who was ready to retire.

Williams had owned the store for about 20 years, purchasing it when it was in Central Mall.

Lynn is also a stylist at Shear Country Hair Salon on Arista Boulevard, just off Richmond Road.

"I've been a hair stylist for 30 years. Now I go back and forth between the salon and the store. I may have a hair color appointment at 8 a.m. and then go open the store at 10 a.m."

Working with hair and makeup is a natural and rewarding career, she said. "I like making people feel pretty. And I like educating people about skin care. I'm actually more into skin care than makeup."

This year is the 90th anniversary for the Merle Norman company.

"It's a year of celebration for us," Lynn said.

A poster in the local Merle Norman store shows off 90 years of the company's advertising.

Lynn's slogan for her store is: "In the seat and off your feet."

She wants customers to be comfortable, try different products and receive personal attention.

Many of her customers have been using Merle Norman products since they were in their teens.

Lynn said she enjoys offering customers tips on contouring or highlighting, and how to cover scars or blemishes.

COVID-19 restrictions require customers to apply their own makeup or skin care, with guidance and advice from Lynn or associate Kristen Sterling. And mother Marion still works shifts in the store.

Like many businesses, Merle Norman was closed for several weeks during the pandemic.. It was a difficult time for a small business, but Lynn said she believes her store earned some customer loyalty by making personal deliveries.

Merle Norman Cosmetics is also selling a World Health Organization-approved hand sanitizer spray to help fight COVID-19.

Lynn said contouring and highlighting are popular makeup trends. Eyebrow trends change often.

"Eyebrows are always changing. They used to be thin and now they are thick," she said.

Another popular item is bubble masks for skin care. The masks only take five minutes to use and almost instantly brighten the skin, Lynn said.

"People buy it like crazy after I put it on them. It bubbles and feels tingly and makes the skin look polished," she said.

The bubble masks help even out skin tones and dark blemishes. It is a great product to use before being photographed, she said.

Lynn said people should have a three-step skin care routine of cleanser, toner and moisturizer.

"Everyone needs all three, whether their skin is oily or dry," she said.

The skin is like a canvas and it needs to be clean for the product, she said.

"When you exfoliate and moisturize, then it's ready for the paint the art," she said.

Lynn has recently expanded her Merle Norman services to include makeup for weddings and proms.

Girls wanting to get their makeup done for a prom or dance can make an appointment. For weddings, Baird will go on location to help the wedding party.

Anyone wanting to make an appointment can call 903-838-5251.

About the company

Merle Norman Cosmetics was started in a kitchen in California.

Founder Merle Nethercutt Norman was an entrepreneur who helped pave the way for other women business owners.

Norman was born in Indiana, where she attended a teachers' college and taught in the South Bend school system for several years. She later enrolled at the University of Chicago to study chemistry.

In 1912 she met Andrew Norman Gullickstead, who was in advertising and would change her name to Merle Nethercutt Norman. The couple moved to Santa Monica, Calif., in 1920 and Norman's nephew, J.B. Nethercutt, would also leave Indiana and move in with her, eventually also studying chemistry at Cal-Tech.

During the late 1920s, Norman with her knowledge of chemistry from college would start creating homemade cosmetics in a makeshift laboratory in her kitchen. Norman would give out free samples to her neighbors. She would then sell her products to local customers, with her nephew J.B. working as a peddler to deliver the products using grocery bags. During this time, Norman created her "3 Steps to Beauty" line, which featured her Powder Base foundation, cleansing cream, and Miracol revitalizing lotion.

In 1931, Norman spent $150 to open a small local cosmetics studio named Merle Norman Cosmetics in downtown Santa Monica She also began the "try before you buy" philosophy, letting her customers try on products for free.

In the next couple of years, women who were interested in the Merle Norman Cosmetics brand wanted to open their own studios throughout California, starting an early chain of franchises dubbed "studios." By 1934, the company had rapidly expanded to 94 independently owned franchises across the United States, most being owned by women.

During World War II, Norman temporarily stopped cosmetic production and the company produced gun oil and camouflage sticks for the U.S. military.

Over the next 30 years, Merle Norman Cosmetics expanded to a multi-million dollar cosmetic enterprise encompassing thousands of franchise studios throughout North America. In 1963, Norman would step down as chairman and hand down the company to her nephew.

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