Star turns skin-care entrepreneur

Posted: November 04, 2013

HOLLYWOOD - Sometimes, even an Emmy for outstanding supporting actress in a TV drama series, an impressive list of directorial credits, and a home in Hollywood aren't enough.

At least apparently not when you have an entrepreneurial itch, as did actress/director Melanie Mayron, a Philadelphia native best known for her role in the late-1980s television hit thirtysomething.

She has scratched that itch, forming Mayron's Goods, a natural and organic skin-care products company with a decidedly local and personal connection: The Hatfield chemist behind the formulations is her father.

The company's name is locally influenced, too.

"I honored my producers," she said, referring not to the entertainment-industry types commonly part of her world, but to her parents, David and Norma Goodman Mayron.

Her primary packaging color was inspired by her childhood wagon - and the Phillies.

"Red was the color of Philly," said the 61-year-old Wissahickon High School alum, who played single photographer Melissa Steadman in thirtysomething, a show about baby boomers who were then that age. It was set, to Mayron's delight, in Philadelphia.

Just inside Mayron's home off Sunset Boulevard today, a memento of her roots fills almost an entire wall: a metal Breyers ice cream sign.

She was trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and her film work includes roles in Girlfriends, Harry and Tonto, and Car Wash. More recently, she directed four episodes of the hot TV teen drama/mystery thriller Pretty Little Liars, which takes place in the fictional Philadelphia suburb of Rosewood.

Fame. Awards. The glitz and glamour of Tinseltown. And yet, it wasn't enough for Mayron, the oldest of three children raised in an apartment in West Philadelphia and a rowhouse on Stevens Street in the city's Northeast section before moving to the Montgomery County suburbs of Center Square Green and, finally, Blue Bell, to a home her parents are just now leaving for a retirement community in Valley Forge.

Mayron's motivation for starting a business? Sibling envy.

Her sister, Gale Mayron, 50, who lives in New York, had started a company of personal-care products, Jao Ltd., in their father's Hatfield lab in 1997. She wanted an on-the-go way to keep her hands clean, she said. Her father suggested a "gelled alcohol" (before Purell became a household and office-cubicle staple). He spent two years turning his idea into Jao's first product, a hand sanitizer made of essential oils and alcohol.

Sixteen years later, Jao, recently relocated to Lansdale, has a variety of mostly natural unisex, multiuse products including lip balms, beard scents, and outdoor oils - and is profitable.

"I was getting jealous," Melanie Mayron admitted in a recent interview in her California kitchen, a collection of her products spread on the table and the home page for www.mayronsgoods.com on her laptop screen.

She also was trying to get pregnant; her son and daughter are now 15. She told her father - whose work at Wyeth (now part of Pfizer Inc.) included a patent on delayed-release tablets and, at what is now GlaxoSmithKline, development of the antiulcer drug Tagamet - that she would like to develop a natural and organic diaper cream.

Baby Goods Barrier & Diaper Cream, paraben-free and fortified with vitamins and essential oils, hit the market in 2009 at $11.95 for a two-ounce tube. Sales that year totaled $6,000. The Baby Goods line now includes body wash, hydrating body milk, body oil, and "chapstuff" for cheeks and lips. All are made in Shartlesville, Berks County.

Sales, fulfilled from her kitchen counter, totaled $36,000 last year, said Mayron, who is launching an adult line that will include calendula balm for cuts and bruises, and protection for bald heads. She's also in talks to begin distribution overseas.

A portion of her profits will be donated to the Society for Women's Health Research.

At 86, a proud father 3,000 miles away said he welcomes his daughters' entrepreneurial verve because it keeps his "mind working."

"Both have definite ideas and, frankly, I like that because it's very challenging," David Mayron said.

That her older, more famous sister has followed her business footsteps is a charge for Gale Mayron, who called it "a funny little switch of the table."

But Melanie has one unmatchable advantage, her younger sister noted: fans. Gale Mayron said she has watched that adoration turn into sales for Melanie at trade shows, where the sisters usually share a booth.

"That's pretty awesome," Gale said good-naturedly. "I don't have that card."

In a retail world ever more crowded by celebrity-endorsed products, Melanie Mayron said she stands apart because she is hands-on with product development and distribution.

"It's given me . . . such a respect for somebody with a start-up, with a dream," she said, adding, in the parlance of her other craft:

"It's almost like the third act."


dmastrull@phillynews.com

215-854-2466 @dmastrull

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