Merle Norman: More than a Cosmetic Store

Even though it’s been reopened since June 1 of last year, the owner of Lacey’s Merle Norman Cosmetics, Wigs and Day Spa, Madelin White, answers phone calls every day asking if they are open. Approaching five decades in business, White proudly says yes and encourages people to visit. “We are open, and we also ship out product every day,” said White in a recent interview.

White’s father first brought up the idea of starting up a beauty related business those many years ago because he viewed it as having the ability to withstand the downturns. He was right.

“I’ve owned this Merle Norman business for 47 years and survived eight recessions. And, we will make it through this too,” White proclaimed. This, of course, refers to the pandemic and all the issues it brought with it.

Diversification has also proved to be a strong strategy that has sustained the Lacey location when others around the state and country have fallen. What started out as a beauty endeavor grew into so much more.

The store, of course, sells a wide variety of Merle Norman cosmetics, and the namesake company is the last remaining cosmetic producer to manufacture in the United States after 90 years. White’s store provides personalized services including free and specialty makeovers, but goes many steps further by offering facials, including a wide variety of masks from Miracol to Charcoal to Bubbly, waxing services, massage therapy, and hair care/styling.

According to White, “We have three amazing hairdressers, each having well over 25 years of experience.” To add to the ambiance of the salon, all three stylists have private rooms. Additionally, the Spa houses a large room to try things on and a secluded area to try on wigs.

With a huge offering of wigs varying in price points, styles and materials, the Spa offers discounts for people going through chemotherapy and cancer treatments. They sell turbans and head coverings as well to assist people in camouflaging their treatment’s side effects.

Merle Norman Cosmetics, Wigs and Day Spa
3925 8th Av SE, Lacey


Toscanos reopens with a fresh dining experience

Toscanos in Puyallup has always provided an exceptional dining experience and, after several weeks of remodeling, they are reopening with a beautiful, modern expanded bar with double the seating in the dining room and a new wine tower that will showcase Toscanos’s vast wine collection.

Along with the newly-updated space, Toscanos is adding fresh new offerings to the menu. Chef Cole Aker-Inabnit explains, “We are excited to offer new menu items, craft cocktails and happy hour menus, while focusing on supporting small businesses in the community and providing an elevated menu focused on clean, simple ingredients.”  For example, Toscanos hired a local artist to craft bread boards for their new bread presentation that features locally sourced loaves. 

Toscanos loves to see the smiling faces of guests again! “My parents both loved to cook,” says Chef Cole, “and we were always in the kitchen and I enjoy sharing that passion for food with each guest. We want to make each guest welcome and comfortable.”

“The community has been a great support to us and we want to continue to give back,” says owner Sue Walker. “We have been able to ‘give back’ every Monday during the shutdown and we provided meals to first responders, nurses, fire fighters and local heroes. In 16 years, we have donated nearly 1 million dollars to the community.”

The restaurant plans to continue expansion with a new, heated, year-round outdoor atrium which will expand the establishment’s footprint. Phase two construction will begin in the fall with plans to complete the project in spring 2022.  For a fresh new experience and to celebrate, connect and enjoy the pleasures of life, reserve your table at or call (253) 864-8600.

Inspire Conference: This May

This May, the Washington Center for Women in Business (WCWB) is excited to announce the 5th annual Inspire Conference!  Inspire is an annual event focused on women entrepreneurs and business owners, providing an incomparable opportunity for them to share their experiences, build community, and share strategies for success. This year the virtual conference will have a panel of five speakers, along with a keynote delivered by the celebrated inspirational speaker, Certified Professional Coach, and author, Ivy Woolf Turk. 

Inspire sticks close to the WCWB’s broad mission of facilitating women-owned and gender-fair businesses and organizations. WCWB program manager Robin Houde shared that INSPIRE’s featured speakers and the organizations they’ve built represent a different way of thinking about the ways that women engage with each other in this modern context. 

“A lot of what the WCWB does is about community building and authentic transparency,” Houde says, “but the INSPIRE Conference is about creating a radically inclusive space to talk about things like resiliency and trust among women, and each speaker is bringing her own real experience to the table.” 

Robin says that the way the conference has come together is a real demonstration of its central themes, which are centered on the ways that women can support other women. 

“I can email Christie (CEO of the Witi Group and CJL Consults, LLC) for example, and she’s happy to answer questions, happy to be supportive, happy to make connections. It was eye-opening, to be surrounded by women who truly are advocates for other women. The community does exist.” 

Robin was able to connect with Ivy Woolf Turk through similar means. Ms. Turk will bring her incredibly wide-ranging experience to the keynote, as Robin saw firsthand when Turk spoke at the recent Be Bold Now conference.  

“I reached out to her to see if she wanted to appear, and she said yes right away. It’s part of that sense of women helping women,” Houde said. 

Ivy Woolf Turk is particularly focused on lifting all women up, especially in an entrepreneurial setting. Her background showed her a great deal about some of the problems that go along with gentrification and development, and she realized that the stance of fierce, every-woman-for-herself competition that was a holdover from the 80s and 90s needed to be reconsidered, because it was leaving a lot of women behind. 

“In a lot of ways, we’re still stuck on the idea that women can only succeed with this phenomenal display of individual grit and strength, and of course that can help, but all of our speakers are proof that this probably isn’t the best way forward anymore,” Robin says. 

Robin Lucas, of Showcase Media, and Christie Lawler, the CEO of CJL Consults, LLC and Witi Group will share their experiences as women succeeding in business. Susan Gates and Kate Isler will also be appearing. Gates and Isler are co-founders of the W Marketplace, an e-commerce platform for women owned/gender fair businesses, and Isler is the founder and president of Be Bold Now. 

In addition to the speakers and the keynote address, WCWB will host a raffle with prizes and social networking opportunities. The INSPIRE conference is open to everyone, and tickets start at just $15. Last year’s conference drew over 200 attendees passionate about business and supporting one another, again this year it is sure to be incredible. Sponsored by WSECU and many other generous community organizations.  

Visit to register, learn more about the speakers, or to become a community event sponsor.  

YMCA Opens Shelton Branch

What started out over 20 years ago as the vision of volunteers and community members to create positive youth and family activities in Shelton is now a reality.  On March 1, 2021, the Shelton Family YMCA opened its doors.

Creating a “Place for all to Belong” for the Shelton community during a pandemic was not ideal, but the local team persevered and overcame.  Local autonomy within a massive organization like the YMCA allowed them to set goals and plan the design for the new YMCA facility located on North Shelton Springs Road.

According to Jake Grater, Executive Director of Branch Operations, “Our design goals were simple.  Build something that brings the entire community together and creates a sense of belonging.”   Layer that on top of the local and national organization’s goals of diversity and inclusion, and the team created a space that is welcoming and engaging.

“We were fortunate to have the experience of 2,700 other YMCA’s across the country.  We created a space that is an open concept, yet an intimate space,” said Grater.  The design utilizes lots of imagery to make people feel like the space was built for them.

Since it was founded in 1844, the Y has constantly evolved to meet the unique needs in each of the communities it serves.  “This commitment to serving all people is core to who we are and our mission,” added Grater.

The new Shelton YMCA is an efficient building designed to minimize operating expenses.  This approach allows the team to deploy resources towards mission work instead of maintenance work.  For example, there is no carpeting in the building, which allows for better hygiene, easier cleaning, and no long-term replacement expense.

As the first YMCA in the area, the Shelton Family YMCA joins three other Y branches within the South Sound Association, which includes the Plum Street Y, the Briggs Community Y, and the Youth & Community Development Branch, which is affectionately referred to as ‘the Y without walls.’

Everyone is invited to come visit the new Shelton Family YMCA.  For more information about the new facility and its vast amenities, visit By Lynn Castle

Code Lavender: Caring for our Caregivers

Caring for the community during a pandemic can take a toll on frontline and other essential health care heroes.

“There were days when you just wanted to cry, because these patients that you work so hard on to get them better, they weren’t going to get better,” Heidi Strub, RT, at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital, shares.

“It was not difficult just emotionally, it was draining physically,” Max Ceban, RT, at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital, adds. “It’s a dark memory in my life.”

It is because of this very reason that MultiCare has created the Code Lavender program to provide mental health and emotional support for health care workers.

Code Lavender is a donor-powered program that began in 2016 to provide peer-to-peer incident stress management following a traumatic event. Led by a team of physicians, nurses, chaplains, social workers and mental health counselors, Code Lavender offers debriefings, educational presentations, reflection rounds and spiritual care to help employees reduce stress and avoid burnout.

“People will share their heart for a minute, and then they go back to being brave, back into that role of being a hero,” MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital Chaplain, Jim Cornwell, says. Code Lavender is important for “sitting beside and being there in the little windows when they just need to process something.”

Today, Code Lavender has grown to include a 24/7 employee support hotline and twice-weekly virtual leadership roundtables to talk through challenges and strategize for success.

Gifts through the MultiCare Health Foundation help Code Lavender expand even further. Donations will help broaden educational, psychological and spiritual resources and extend the program’s geographical reach to MultiCare employees serving in the Inland Northwest.

For Additional Information
MultiCare Health System


Heart Disease Linked to Food Insecurity

People with atherosclerosis, particularly those who earn a low income and have other socioeconomic disadvantages, are more likely to experience food insecurity than those without the condition, according to new research.

In 2018, nearly 11% – 14.3 million – U.S. households were food insecure, a term the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines as “limited or uncertain access to adequate food due to lack of money” at least some time during the year.

The new findings were presented last month at the American Heart Association’s virtual Scientific Sessions. They are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Those who listed themselves as “poor/low income” were nearly five times more likely to experience food insecurity. Among people with five or more “high-risk characteristics,” 44.1% reported food insecurity and had 23 times higher odds of being food insecure compared to those with one or no characteristics.

Leaving atherosclerosis unchecked could be dangerous. The fatty plaque may partially or totally block blood flow through large or medium-sized arteries in the heart and brain, leading to a heart attack or stroke. Treatments for the condition can include medication to prevent clot formation and to control risk factors, surgery, or lifestyle changes such as heart-healthy eating, weight management, exercise and quitting smoking.

Experts say it’s essential for people to be able to afford medications and still be able to eat a balanced diet. Federal nutrition programs, sometimes called “food stamps,” are critical for people with food insecurity, the study said. A previous study commissioned by the USDA found the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) reduced the likelihood of being food insecure by about 30%.

Finding a long-term solution is trickier, but research shows high-quality education is the key. “It’s remarkable to look at the disparity in education among people who end up being food insecure and those who don’t,” he said.

“The solutions need to start early in life with education intervention, from age two onwards. It sounds like an obvious thing to say, but you have to make sure people get a better education so they have better jobs, a higher income and better health.”

For Additional Information
American Heart Association


Outdoor Living Spaces

It’s time to start thinking about your impending spring and summer garden parties. Outdoor living and entertaining are important to modern life; people enjoy spending time outside, surrounded by fresh air, wildlife and the sounds and smells of their environment. Ultimately, this means you need to offer your guests an outdoor space where they will feel comfortable spending time. If you haven’t given your outdoor spaces a second thought since fall, you might need some guidance toward up-and-coming trends. Here are some design ideas to jumpstart your creativity and get your outdoor areas ready for sunny skies.

Natural Materials

Metal and plastic outdoor furniture and features have been popular for decades because these materials offer the clean, modern lines essential to minimalism, and metal and plastic tend to withstand the elements fairly well. However, as interest in minimalism has waned, so has the use of synthetic or artificial materials in outdoor décor. Instead, you should look into utilizing natural materials, like organic cotton, wool, wood and wicker.

Warm Colors

In addition to the change in materials, the most up-to-date deck and patio furniture is warm and inviting in color. In recent history, color palettes for the home have been relatively cool-toned: grays, icy blues, white and black. Cool colors are refreshing and tend to have a calming effect, but they don’t often make a space feel welcoming or comfortable. As the new year dawns,
almost every designer is shifting focus toward warm and earthy hues, like brown, taupe, golden yellow, dusty red and olive green.

You can integrate warm colors many places in your exterior design, not just your outdoor furniture. You might consider giving your front and back doors a new coat of paint or changing the color of your home’s trim around windows and doors. You could add decorative hardscaping, like fences, with a new and inviting color palette. Finally, you can stain your concrete or repaint your deck to add color to your exterior. Most of these fixes are relatively small but pack a major decorative punch.


It doesn’t matter how much time, effort and expense you put into your outdoor living area if your furniture is uncomfortable. Perhaps most important of all, the features you place in your exterior living spaces should be functional, meaning you and guests should be able to enjoy the stylish outdoors with ease and comfort.

Additionally, you might consider adding functional features to your outdoor living space, transforming it into a true room of your home. A popular choice is to add an outdoor kitchen space, replete with refrigerator, counter space, cooktop and more. An outdoor kitchen can be fun and interactive during warm-weather months, when you don’t want to separate the party between your yard and indoor kitchen. Plus, it gives you more opportunity to design your exterior, perhaps adding trendy countertops, backsplashes and lighting to the space.


Asia Pacific Cultural Center Steps Up to Help

A quick visit to Asia Pacific Cultural Center’s Facebook page and you see it instantly. This organization does so much for the South Sound community, but especially during the current pandemic.

From hosting free COVID-19 testing in their parking lot every other Wednesday for months, to providing free food giveaways from the Tacoma Farmers Market weekly in the summer, APCC dug deep and helped often. Whether it was giving away thousands of masks and sanitation tools or school supplies to kids as virtual school started up, APCC helped everyone in the community.

According to APCC Executive Director, Lua Pritchard, “Helping our community is part of our core values. It is what Asian Pacific Islanders do every day, but it was especially important during the recent crisis.”

Throughout the months of the crisis, Pritchard and her team worked with several organizations to touch as many people as possible. A great example was the COVID-19 Assistance for Families program which partnered APCC with the Pierce County Connected Fund to give away $75 grocery store gift cards in late December when struggling families needed the help the most. Just days before, APCC hosted a toy giveaway with local Kiwanis chapters and free lunch from Northwest SHARE.

APCC also worked with the Pierce County Management Team and Tacoma Pierce County Health Department for free flu shots as well as the COVID-19 Testing. They worked with Tacoma Project Access to ensure people had health care coverage options. APCC promoted the Census, how to apply for government-funded small business loans in various languages, and educated the community about the Family and Medical Leave laws to ensure everyone knew their rights. And most importantly, APCC’s Promised Leaders of Tomorrow team continued their work with the youth of the Tacoma and Bethel School Districts through virtual learning programs providing support wherever it was needed.

For Additional Information
Asia Pacific Cultural Center


Amp Your Health with Greens This Spring

As leaves begin to unfurl, spring can be a great reminder to take a moment to get reconnected with the natural world and recommit to personal self-care. One of the best ways to assist your health, and especially your immune system, is by being more mindful of your diet. Here in the South Sound, the abundance of farmers markets makes finding local, fresh, and whole foods incredibly easy.

Spring brings an explosion of green to the produce offered by farmers. The array of greens will include familiar favorites such as chard, kale, lettuce, sorrel, and spinach, but also the more unusual fiddleheads and nettles. Expand your use of greens from the salad and try some cooked greens. After eating them a few times, you will quickly find out why cooked greens are part of such a variety of cuisines from China to France to India. With a short cooking time, versatility, unique flavors and important nutritional benefits, greens can become a regular part of healthy eating either on their own or nestled in other dishes. Here are some ways to try spring greens:

  • Saute greens until tender in a large pot with olive oil, salt and garlic or onion. Add additional flavor with a dot of butter or cream along with seasonal herbs, salt and pepper.
  • Add sliced kale to soups and stews during the last 10-15 minutes of cooking.
  • Toss some chopped fresh greens into a smoothie.
  • Increase the nutritional power in your breakfast by sautéing chopped greens and garlic before you add eggs for scrambling.

Farmers will also be offering leeks, potatoes, rhubarb, and sprouts among their spring bounty. Eating fresh whole foods can be cleansing and enlivening for your body after the limited choices of winter eating which often includes more processed foods. With an extensive history of family farming, the communities of the South Sound have been growing crops for decades. Today you can find markets throughout Tacoma, as well as in Puyallup, Lakewood, Gig Harbor, and Olympia. It can be a fun family outing to go visit a new farmers market to explore new vendors, neighborhoods, and parks. So don’t be deterred by the spring rains and plan a trip to a farmers market today.

For Additional Information
Lakewood Farmers Market | City of Lakewood

Olympia Farmers Market

Tacoma Farmers Markets

Gig Harbor Waterfront Farmers Market

Puyallup Farmers Market | Puyallup Main Street Association


Rolf’s Import Auto Celebrates 50 Years

There’s a special kind of magic in European fuel injection cars. Rolf Simons knew that.

In 1970 Rolf Simons opened a small auto repair shop in Lakewood. His business began to change when military personnel returned from duty in Europe, bringing their fuel-injection cars—mostly Volkswagens—with them.

In 1975 Rolf moved into a new shop at 3122 96th Street South near warehouses in Lakewood as Rolf’s Import Auto Service, focusing on premier import auto repair. And that’s where you can still find the business, now entering its 51st year with Rolf’s son Mark as the owner.

“I started working with my dad part-time in 2001,” Mark said. It wasn’t his intention to leave his career in country club management, but he decided his professional skills worked well in the family business.

“As a service adviser, I built relationships with the customers,” Mark said. “I decided to stay. What my dad did, I followed.” He built relationships with car dealers who needed high-end pre-inspection services.

A key to 50-plus years of helping clients is “being transparent,” he pointed out. “Our job is to repair vehicles and to help clients. We figure out what a vehicle needs and what the customer needs,” Mark said. He presents the information and works with a customer to make a plan.

That approach must appeal to clients. They respond, calling Mark “informative and professional,” “warm and considerate” and “patient and kind.”

COVID-19 has impacted the business. The car count is down dramatically, Mark reported—about 20% a week. “Clients say they aren’t driving as much,” he said, “but cars should be inspected on schedule even if fewer miles are driven.”

An advantage of business-in-times-of-COVID has been the chance to push the use of Rolf’s concierge service. The company is expanding pick up and delivery of vehicles. That service works especially well in the Fife location,
which opened in 2006.

Mark is focusing on the future. Before Rolf died in 2013, he and Mark worked out a transition plan. Now Mark has a goal for the company.

“I am really trying to encourage staff development and their sense of ownership,” Mark said. He sees that as the key to lasting success in the next 50 years.

For Additional Information
Rolf’s Import Auto Service