For over 85 years, the Nethercutt family owned and operated Merle Norman, a beauty store founded by one of the first women in cosmetics: Merle Nethercutt Norman. This family’s story is inspirational, and not unlike New Albany’s own storeowners, Natalie Bullard Floyd, and her mother, Sherri Quinn Bullard.
Their story began when Sherri Bullard had her first makeover at Merle Norman for her first beauty pageant as a 13-year-old girl in New Albany. Since then, Bullard had a dream to own a Merle Norman store. Then her dream came true in May 1986.
“I have to give some credit to Chuck Cooper who owns Van Atkins,” said Bullard, “he hired me to open a Van Atkins in Ripley and Merle Norman was next door. Every day at lunch I would go visit. Just a few months after I was working for Chuck and his family, (the owner) said she wanted to sell. She actually even financed me so I didn’t have to go to a bank or anything. I just paid her monthly so it made it so much easier to buy into my own business.”
Naturally, her daughter, Natalie Bullard Floyd, flourished in this dream.
“She started putting out lipstick and the lip bubbles as early as probably six,” Bullard said, “and then she would go to makeup conventions with us and my friends just adored her. I will tell you something about Natalie: she has impeccable taste, and not everybody’s got that. I don’t think I have got that, but she has got it. So whenever we go to the market and she picks something out, it will sell. She will style somebody and the town loves it. She could be a Hollywood stylist and she loves doing it right here in Mississippi.”
Floyd has trained all over United States with makeup artists for celebrities like Taylor Swift and Reba McEntire to hone her makeup artistry along with fashion styling. Her mother said that the customers have valued Floyd’s input on fashion and makeup ever since she began working at the store.
When Floyd graduated from Ripley High School in 2006, her mother bought Merle Norman in New Albany. At 18 years old, Floyd became the co-owner of Merle Norman and More on Bankhead Street, a natural step after playing at Merle Norman and then working at the store every day after school as a preteen and teenager.
The mother-daughter team is going strong 12 years later as they strive to help women in New Albany and Ripley feel beautiful.
“Hahaha, it has its days,” Floyd said. “It’s challenging because we’re a lot alike. I would say that we’re a good team though because she’s wonderful at ordering and behind-the-scenes work and I’m out front with the customers on a daily basis. We’re good at balancing each other out while tending to the customers.”
With this balance they provide the “more” in the stores’ names: Merle Norman and More.
“We kind of did that as an umbrella term when we started that,” Floyd said. “Merle Norman is the oldest cosmetic company in the country – started back in the Great Depression and still family-owned and operated today. But the cool thing about us is that Merle Norman can carry jewelry, prom dresses and tuxedos along with makeup. It’s a one-stop shop for women.”
Bullard and Floyd travel to Atlanta, New York City, Dallas, and Los Angeles to name a few of multiple cities where they find “exactly what their customers are asking for” as well as hottest trends for upcoming seasons.
Valuing customers’ input is a big part of being a good business owner Floyd added as she describes how they select clothes for upcoming seasons.
“You have to have a good intuition of what the trends are,” she said, “and you want to buy it before it becomes big so you don’t get stuff that fades out or already-faded styles. Usually this time of the year we have floral print, pastels, stripes and denim – just trying to hit that trend before it hits.”
The store, located at 118 W. Bankhead Street, features Merle Norman makeup and skincare lines where the customers can get free facials and free makeovers – a time-honored tradition by its founder. Floyd said her favorite makeup is Merle Norman’s lip pencil that has lipstick on one end and a lip liner on the other end. It comes in 50 colors and Floyd said she had 10 of those shades in her purse right now.
Found in the store too this spring are bright sunhats and colorful beach bags, and dresses, rompers and jackets from national to international brands.
Floyd said, “We not only carry women’s clothing but junior clothing so I can dress women of all ages and all sizes. We carry anywhere from a size small to a 3XL for my women so we can fit everybody.”
Merle Norman and More also offer one of the largest selections of prom dresses in the state. Men can find tuxedos from Jim’s Formal Wear with Berloni dress shirts.
Floyd says that the store’s busiest seasons in New Albany are fall for Homecoming dances and winter for Christmastime shopping. The store just finished its prom season, one of its busiest times in spring.
Merle Norman and More spent the past Easter weekend helping high school students in New Albany, East Union and Ignomar prepare for prom. Floyd said she helped guys with their tuxedos, girls with their dresses and did everyone’s makeup that day.
“It was one of our biggest prom seasons,” Floyd said, “We actually prepare a year ahead of time. We usually buy the dresses every summer then they’ll ship them to us in December and we keep them in storage until it’s time to put them on the floor. People usually buy for prom season in January up until May.”
The store’s community impact is bigger than beautifying, although it does dress the New Albany High School’s Homecoming Court every year. The store donates to several charities and organizations every year as well as to scholarships. The store has supported local schools’ theatre programs too.
“We’re just grateful to be in such a great town,” Bullard said. “New Albany is where I grew up. My daughter has lived here for several years now and we love the people and love having a small town business.”