Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

December 3, 2012

Merle Norman celebrates 20 years in town

Markland location hosts anniversary event

By Megan Graham
Tribune staff writer

— Betty and Jill Savage are standing in the same Merle Norman they’ve been coming to for 20 years, wearing the same products they’ve used for a combined 113 years.

Betty, fluffing her hair, asks her daughter, “Is my hair straight?”

Jill pulls out a purple comb, checks her mother’s hair, which is coiffed perfectly, then teases her own. She pulls out a Merle Norman lip pencil and applies it.

Though Betty is 88 and Jill is 53, their skin is bright and healthy. Their cheeks are full of color, their eyes are white and gleaming. They are two beautiful women, and they’re not afraid to share what they see as their secret: Merle Norman.

“It’s good stuff,” Betty says.

Betty has been a Merle Norman devotee since her mother took her as a high schooler to learn how to apply makeup in the early 1940s. She’s never used anything else. When Jill was in middle school, Betty took her to learn how to apply makeup for roller skating parties and dress up.

These days, the women stock up on the products at the 1513 E. Markland Ave. location, owned by Shannon Imbler Miller. The shop celebrated its 20th anniversary Thursday, hosting generations of Merle Norman customers. The women enjoyed door prizes, snacks and companionship as the location buzzed with activity.

Miller’s introduction to Merle Norman was much like Betty and Jill’s; her mother was very loyal to Merle Norman products.

“We weren’t allowed to use anything else,” she said.

Miller’s mother and father opened the shop in 1992, and since then, she’s taken the helm. She’s been involved in Kiwanis, Chamber of Commerce and Women’s Business Council as a way to thank the community for supporting her business.

Nora Shaykhutdinov, COO at the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance, said she thanks Miller for her community involvement and commends the products for being primarily American-made.

“It’s nice to support local business as well as home-grown products,” Shaykhutdinov said. “We at the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance want to support the businesses that have been here for many years.”

Joni Walls, the very first customer at Miller’s store, says she’ll always support the location.  

“Once you’ve used it, you’ll probably always be a customer for life,” she said.

Miller said she wants to thank her customers for 20 years.

“I’ve had a lot of fun through the years meeting all of my customers, developing that relationship with them and being able to make a difference in how a woman looks and how she feels about herself when she walks out that door,” she said.

Megan Graham is the Kokomo Tribune business reporter. She can be reached by phone at 765-454-8570 or by email at megan.graham@kokomotribune.com.