When Mill Valley mother of three Hillary Peterson was diagnosed with Melanoma five years ago, little did she know it would lead to a new career.
For Peterson, CEO of Berkeley-based skincare product maker Marie Veronique Organics, that career has taken her full circle. The company is opening its first-ever retail shop this weekend and is doing so in downtown Mill Valley. The store is located at 29 Miller Ave. the space formerly occupied for 40-plus years by Baskin-Robbins and much-discussed for Subway's unsuccessful attempt open a sandwich shop there earlier this year.
A former marketer for Levi’s, Peterson stumbled upon Marie Veronique Nadeau and her MV Organics line of skin care products while searching for a safe, non-toxic, and chemical-free sunscreen. Although she really just needed a good sunscreen, Nadeau convinced Peterson to try her cleanser and skin oils too. After using the products for only two months, Peterson said she was sold, and two months later she became Nadeau’s business partner.
The choice to locate the brand’s only retail space in Mill Valley was, according to Peterson, a no-brainer. Two other MV Organics employees, Trinina Herbert and Tane Daijogo, also live here. The group hopes to capitalize on the Mill Valley sensibilities of forward thinking, global responsibility and, of course, aesthetics.
Nadeau, who started MV Organics about eight years ago, has a scientific background and was previously a high school chemistry teacher. She works with her daughter, a physicist, to develop and test new products. Nadeau’s interest in skin care was born when she suffered from Rosacea and was trying to find a safe and natural product that could ease her symptoms. After seeing all the harmful and toxic ingredients in the products that were available, she decided to just make her own.
“Marie is a genius!," says Peterson. "She is incredibly bright and intuitive and has applied her ability to understand, on a deep scientific level, what is happening to the skin as we age, and then look to nature for ingredients to counter that.”
When asked what differentiates MV Organics from the dozens of other natural products available in Mill Valley, Peterson replied, “It’s the quality of the ingredients. Our manufacturer looked at what we spend on ingredients and was shocked. Usually skin care products spend 1 percent of budget for ingredients and the rest on marketing. We are skewed heavily the other way. Our marketing is mainly word of mouth.”
Clearly passionate about her work, Peterson says the difference between skin oils and everyday lotion is clear.
“Lotions and creams are made with petroleum products and waxes that just sit on the surface of the skin," she says. "Do you want that in your body? Our products are made with things like essential fatty acids and anti-oxidants that you would want to take as supplements. If you use them for a month, the lipid barrier is replenished and your skin starts to function like a younger person. It’s so logical I have no idea why it hasn’t come out sooner. “
The retail space, designed by Julie Brown (another Mill Valleyan), consists of casual sitting areas rather than sales counters. Kentfield photographer Kimberley Carr Harmon’s photos decorate the walls. The shop will have 30 or so MV Organics products. Nadeau herself will be in the store on weekends and some weekdays to meet customers in person and give consultations.
The back part of the space is separated from the retail area by curtains and will accommodate the company’s offices and research and development efforts.
When asked if this means that Mill Valley women will no longer have to pay for Botox, Peterson responded, “Well, that’s the goal. There’s no reason we can’t age naturally. These products do such an incredible job. Hopefully your skin will look so good you won’t want to do anything else.”
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