Jess G. Bell started his cosmetics company in the basement of his Kansas home more than 80 years ago, before packing it up and moving to Northeast Ohio.
He was remembered saying “if you’ve ever seen the winner of a sales conference, he was from Cleveland.”
Bonne Bell, the company that he launched on the corner of Detroit Avenue and Graber Drive in 1930, is now closing the doors on its Lakewood location.
At one time, there were more than 150 employed with the company in Lakewood — positions that included sales, marketing and distribution.
Over the years, the company’s operations spread. Bonne Bell opened up an office in Westlake and other sites around the world. The product line expanded and department stores came calling.
On April 9, the company that invented Formula 10.0.6 and Lip Smacker lip gloss is closing in Lakewood and taking the remaining positions to its Westlake headquarters.
Bonne Bell officials say the company is consolidating the two offices — and its 150 employees — into one building.
During the past couple weeks, employees from the marketing and creative departments have been moving over to the Westlake offices. Only a few salespeople remain.
James Bell, a company shareholder and grandson of Jess G. Bell, said a deal is in the works to sell the Georgetown-style building.
“The dynamics of the industry have really changed,” said James Bell, who left a senior vice president post with the company in 2003 to open restaurant on the adjacent property.
“(Jess G. Bell) really transformed this corner into a beautiful parcel,” he said. “There’s definitely a lot off history here. There’s emotion involved in this decision.”
“But Bonne Bell’s job is to sell cosmetics, not own real estate.”
Laurie Scheel, a Bonne Bell employee for the past 46 years, said it’s sad to see the facility close. She remembers working at the company’s Lakewood location decades ago.
The site was stirring with activity. But, she said she understands the move is what’s best for the company.
“It was always the intention to get everybody under one roof,” she said.
Dru Siley, Lakewood’s assistant director of development, said the property was reconfigured for sale of the individual parcels. And last week, the city’s planning commission approved that plan.
“It’s a shame to see them go, but the company was concerned about the future of their corporation,” Siley said. “They moved on.”
"The good news is we’re happy that they’re interested in selling the building, and they’re interested in having good tenants there to energize that block.”