I was charmed by ModernRoots skincare from the moment I walked in the door on Stillwater’s Main Street. The huge windows! The airy space! The clean white walls and plain bottles with simple labels that list ingredients you will actually recognize: Almonds! Apricots! Beeswax! And that was before meeting proprietor Meg DiMercurio’s 8-year-old daughter Giana, who told me she’s the reason her mom started making natural skincare products—to treat the skincare problems that plagued Giana as a baby. The young girl led me to one of her favorite soaps: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, with hints of pine, birch, berry and cinnamon. It’s $4 a bar!
I had to know more. DiMercurio and I chatted the other day just as she was finishing her early morning chores, which include feeding the animals on the family’s farm in Annandale and getting three kids ready for school before heading to her flagship store and manufacturing center in Buffalo, Minn. where she makes, bottles, and sells her ever-growing collection of products. DiMercurio grows 60 percent of the ingredients she uses on her farm. She’s got goats to give her—you guessed it—goat’s milk. She raises bees for beeswax. She grows herbs for essential oils. The lard she uses in many of her soaps (vegan options available) comes from her own pigs. And oh yeah, she’s a butcher, too—self-taught, thanks to YouTube.
“It’s important for me to know these things,” she says matter-of-factly.
This is how the conversation goes with DiMercurio—each fact, a revelation. She grew up on a farm in Northern Minnesota, but became a city slicker, with a corporate job for Microsoft, and a house in Minnetonka. All the while, she felt the pull to become self-reliant. To live off the land.
When her first baby experienced skin issues, and steroids weren’t helping, DiMercurio started experimenting. “I didn’t find any skin care products I felt were going to be good for her—for the right price. Seventy-five dollars for a tiny bottle is just not feasible.”
DiMercurio had experience with fermenting, which she says she knew was good for the skin. She started playing with shea butter and olive oil. “There’s no information on oil blending. Finding the right ratios was difficult.”
Luckily, the numbers came easily—DiMercurio has a masters degree in finance.
Of course she does.
As she figured out what ingredients worked, she also found ways to make them. Farming. Gardening. Producing her own essential oils. She blogged about the process. People started writing in with ailments in need of a natural solution—a nut allergy, skin disorders. “Every product has been made with a purpose,” she says. That includes Magnesium Balm, which is said alleviate migraines and Chaga Eye Cream Serum, an anti-wrinkle and plumping agent.
DiMercurio sells her products online and at farmer’s markets as well as now maintaining two stores—one, which is an hour away from her home. I ask: Wouldn’t wholesale be easier? No matter. DiMercurio says she’s not interested.
“I want people coming to my stores to check out the products,” DiMercurio says. “I love the customer interaction.”
It’s also been suggested that DiMercurio could bump up her own prices—especially in touristy Stillwater, but don’t worry, she has no intention of taking advantage. “I’m conscious of how my customers spend their money,” she says. “I’d rather sell more.”
And no doubt, she will.
126 N. Main St., Stillwater and 205 5th St. N.E., Buffalo