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BTTF# 23: Redken Laboratories in Canoga Park later turned to Ray-Art Studios and a Tribute to founder Paula Kent Meehan

Paula Kent Meehan possibly in her early 20's. Image courtesy Redken Facebook
Paula Kent Meehan with Redken products possibly in the 80's. Image courtesy Redken Facebook.
Welcome aboard the Delorean! 

Marty McFly here to take you on a special journey to explore the life of Paula Kent Meehan who founded Redken Company last located at 6625 Variel Avenue Canoga Park CA 91303.  The Delorean has the required plutonium plus some random garbage in the Mr. Fusion reactor ready for this trip. The time circuits are set to sometime in 1975 (actual date unknown) and the flux capacitor is......fluxxing. The engine is running (not stalled this time) so we need to hurry. Hang on, as the ride can be a little bumpy as we travel back in time.

On Monday July 23rd, 2014, the SFV lost one of its great innovators in the hair care industry, Paula Kent Meehan, who passed away at the age of 82 in Beverly Hills, after a lengthy battle with lung infections. Meehan co-founded the Redken company along with Jheri Redding (who is known as the "Godfather of Hair" as well as the "Jheri curl", yes, the "Jheri curl") who passed away on March 15, 1998 at the age of 91. 

The Redken name was based on merging the last names of Kent (she adopted the stage name of Paul Kent before she married John Meehan) and Redding to form "Red-Ken." Redken was started in 1960 in Van Nuys (and later moved to Canoga Park) which would become the largest maker of hair and skin-care products sold exclusively through beauty shops, expanding distribution to 35 countries. 

The story of Meehan is remarkable and inspiring and proves that there are no boundaries to success. Meehan grew up in Burbank where her father was an assistant sound manager for Fox Studios before later becoming an accountant. In the 1950s, Paula Jane Baer (before name change and marriage) mostly acted in commercials and small parts including "Mary Lake" in a 1955 episode of the series The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok titled Buckshot Comes Home. She also played a waitress in an episode of State Trooper titled The Choker as well as a minor role as Dino's Restaurant hat check girl on 77 Sunset Strip at Warner Bros. She was also a good friend of local Valley girl/legend Debbie Reynolds.

Her first aspiration was to become an actress which didnt work out as planned and indirectly led to the creation of Redken. While on the sets, Meehan's hair was constantly treated with shampoos that would dry out and break and sometimes trigger allergic reaction in her scalp. So she turned to her haridresser, Redding, who was an amateur chemist at the time and developed shampoos that were pH-balanced that would match the mild acidity of human skin and put protein, vitamins, and minerals in hair-care products. This process of creating so-called scientific shampoos revolutionized the industry and consequently led to much copying.

So in 1960, Meehan used $3,000 (the equivalent of $25,000 today) from the proceeds of working on a Hamm's Beer commercial and began marketing her products using her acting talents to win over salon owners. In her first year, Redken earned $90,000 (the equivalent of $723,000 today) followed by $350,000 (the equivalent of $2.8 million today) in the second year. By 1966, sales had reached $1.5 million (the equivalent of $11 million today).
Redken located at 5946 Kester Ave Van Nuys CA 91411 in 1960 prior to moving to Canoga Park, not sure if there were other Van Nuys locations. Image courtesy Redken Facebook 
By the mid-60's Meehan bought out Redding and the company continued to flourish under Meehan's leadership. Her third partner, John Meehan, an advertising man, initially came knocking on Redken's door to solicit ads for the trade publications. Paula was so impressed with John that she ended up marrying him in 1971 and also made him President

With the company flourishing in 1971, Redken went public and sold 48% ownership. By 1976, revenues reached $42 million (the equivalent of $175 million today). Flush with so much cash, Redken moved from its tiny cramped 20,000 sqft facility in Van Nuys along with 10 other separate buildings and setup a new 240,000 sqft facility complete with corporate offices, manufacturing, and research lab in Canoga Park, CA in a former Rockwell North American Aviation Rocketdyne facility that was originally built in the 1960s.

Redken hosts its first US Sales meeting at the Canoga Park factory in 1975 located at 6625 Variel Avenue Canoga Park 91303. Image courtesy Redken Facebook.

I believe 1970's or 80's era images of the R&D labs. Above images courtesy Davida Rochlin Architecture
In the early 80's, the Meehans stepped down from an active management role and hired Simon Mester who was the former head of the Helen Curtis and Max Factor Japanese units to run the company. By 1986, business declined and Mester was forced out with the Meehans resuming active management. In September 1988, the Meehans took the company private and purchased back the company stock at $35.44 per share financed by a $58 million loan backed by the Meehans.

Image courtesy ebay Auction
In 1993, sales reached $165 million (the equivalent of $271 million today) with the $58 million loan paid off within 5 years that was used to re-acquire the company. However, the Meehans had called it quits and sold Redken to Cosmair, Inc., L'Oreal's U.S. licensee for an undisclosed price but I would imagine possibly somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 - $600 million (if sold for $500 million, the equivalent is $823 million today).
On Redken's 25th anniversary, each employee was given a a paperweight embedded with a custom made Redken silver dollar coin. Silver at the time was worth $5 to $6 so to have it custom made must have cost another $20 - $30 which was generous gift to give and a testament to Meehan's care for her employees. 

On September 21, 1993, Cosmair moved the manufacturing and distribution facilities to Florence, Kentucky  for the reason that the Canoga Park facility was aging but the headquarters, sales, and R&D departments remained. On January 17, 1994, the Northridge earthquake hit causing significant damage to the factory that Redken was forced to raze down 60,000 sqft of warehouse space. On May 17, 1994, Redken announced that the remainder of manufacutring operations were moving to Kentucky with the headquarters based in NYC. As part of the move, Redken was asking $12 million for its two Canoga Park properties.

After selling Redken, Meehan was devoted to philanthropy. She donated millions of dollars to great causes like Pets 90210 (which she created), Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Beverly Hills 9/11 Memorial Garden, Childhelp for preventing child abuse, and rescued an Art Deco-style Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills. She served on many boards and was known to fly around in her private jet scouting new opportunities as the head of her Kenquest, Inc. and Timequest, Inc. investment companies that was headquartered at 499 N Canon Drive.

Meehan's investment company headquarters, Kenquest, at 499 Canon Drive Beverly Hills CA. Image courtesy Kenquest
Meehan was a long time resident of Beverly Hills living in a former Elvis Presley 24 room mansion since I believe the early 1970's. She was a big fan of Beverly Hills that she recently purchased the local newspaper, The Beverly Hills Courier, in April 2014. Check out the many famous people who recognized her at the Beverly Hills Courier at the very bottom of this post which was published on June 27, 2014 on page 2.

The former Elvis Presley home that was previously owned by actor, director, and producer, Robert Montgomery known as the Montgomery estate in Holmby Hills near the Los Angeles Country Club Image courtesy Classicmontgomery Blog
Property records list the home at 7 Beds/7 Baths on 9,756 sqft on a total of 1.63 acres built in 1937. Meehan also acquired the corner lot at the bottom left of the picture which measures 4 Beds/5 Baths on 4,069 sqft on a total lot size of 0.75 acres. This property was acquired on Jan 27, 1999 for $3.112 million and later built new in 2002.  Image courtesy Bing Maps.
Meehan acquired this Malibu home on January 13, 2010 for $1.510 million which measures 3 Beds/2 Baths on 2,593 sqft on a total lot size of 1.11 acres built in 1976. Image courtesy Bing Maps.
During Redken's height, Paula Kent Meehan received numerous awards including Business Week's "100 Top Corporate Women in 1977, named one of the "Eight Most Powerful Woman Business Owners" by Entrepreneurial Woman magazine, and selected as one of the "Top Fifty Women Business Owners" by Working Woman magazine. She was also featured in a December 6, 1976 People Magazine article.

On a personal note, my mom worked for Redken at the management level in the early 90's. It was a big deal for my mom to be employed by Redken because it was the biggest and best in the industry after moving around to other local cosmetic companies. Unfortunately, my mom passed away from her lengthy battle with breast cancer in October 1992 after only working a couple of years at Redken (with the last year of her life being out sick).

The timing of her death seems almost fate like with Redken eventually closing down in 1994. Had she continued working, I dont know if she would have made the trek to Kentucky or even still have a job which makes me wonder what would have become of my life. But I dont actually have a Delorean (although I wish I did) to change the course of events and realize that some things happen for a reason whether they seem good or not. And as much as I would love to have my mom around today, I believe her passing has led to my personal course of events to have a wonderful family and fortunate life of my own which allows me to blog about my biggest passion, the SFV. When my mom was working at Redken, I was too young to care about anything which I wish I now I could ask her about her experiences working with Redken and Meehan but I know it was great based on others I have spoken with which is all that matters. Just do a google search on Redken and you wont find anything negative.

So this is where the story diverges from Redken to continue the discussion on the history of this location except for the ending paragraph about Meehan. The now empty Redken facility was acquired by Robert E. Selan, a residential developer, for an unknown amount in the Spring of 1996. Selan was originally going to build a family sports center but instead built an indoor baseball training facility. Afterwards, executive producers, Steve Hirsch andand Bob Papazian, during a scouting trip in September 1996 discovered the former Redken facility which was now filled with batting and pitching cages and had visions of multiple sound stages that was a perfect match to the existing 90,000 sqft of office space and plenty of land available to expand.

So they acquired the facility and built a state-of-the-art Hollywood style studio called Ray-Art Studios. Ray-Art Studios biggest customer was Aaron Spelling Productions which used the studios exclusively for the TV series,  Charmed, starring Alyssa Milano who must have enjoyed the close convenience to her Bell Canyon home. Charmed used four of the stages for five years and even filmed in the nearby streets as shown at the filming locations website, Filming Location of Chicago and Los Angeles and here, here, here, and here. Spelling Productions also used the Studios for the remake of The Love Boat which occupied four stages including a replica of The Love Boat ship.

In 2003, Hirsch and Papazian sold Ray-Art Studios to developers. In 2004, The Ghastly Love of Johnny X was the last film to shoot in Ray-Art's backlot before it closed down for good. From 2004 - 2006, the studio buildings were completely demolished to build 522 housing units known as the AMLI Warner Center Apartments at 21200 Kittridge Street eliminating the former address of Redken at 6625 Variel Avenue. At the time of writing this post, Yelp reviews for AMLI Warner Center show 2.5 stars with 1 Bed/1 Bath asking starting at $1,874 and a 2 Bed/2 Bath at $2,100, however, this building is conveniently located to the popular Orange Line and Warner Center which is currently exploding with development. As they say in R.E., location, location, location.







Above images courtesy thestudiotour.com via the now defunct rayartstudios.com site.

Filming The Ghastly Love of Johnny X at Ray-Art Studios. Above images courtesy Charmed.wikia.com
Now using the Delorean time machine to visit the years 1952, 1980, 2003, and 2005 (shown below), we can see the Redken factory evolution that took place over time to the present state.

In 1952, nothing but open land with ranches nearby. Image courtesy Historicaerials.com
In 1980, Canoga Park is mostly developed and Redken has become the largest supplier of beauty products. Image courtesy Historicaerials.com
By 2003, Redken is transformed into the Ray-Art studios which is used exclusively for the TV series Charmed. Image courtesy Historicaerials.com
In 2005, the former Redken factory turned movie studios is demolished for the construction of an apartment complex. Image courtesy Historicaerials.com
The former Redken and Ray-Art Studios which is now the AMLI Warner Center. Image courtesy Bing Maps.
Meehan was truly a great person who made a difference in other people's lives. On the production floor, she would take the time to greet everyone and thank them for their hard work. She would hold lavish Christmas parties and would take care of her employees. Redken employed somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 - 600 employees providing decent pay and benefits in the SFV, something which seems to be slowing fading away in today's corporate America. Today, those jobs no longer exist but moved to Kentucky with the Redken headquarters replaced by a large apartment complex that probably employs no more than 10 - 20 people.
Meehan in 2004. Image courtesy NY Times
I leave with an awesome and inspiring quote:
After painfully coming to the conclusion Hollywood wasn’t going to make me the next Joan Crawford,” she once said, “I wanted to control my own destiny.
And now its time to fire up the Delorean and go back to the future to the present setting where the former Redken factory existed and has been completely replaced by an apartment complex.  





And one bonus, how many remember the Valley Indoor Swap Meet across the street. I have not been able to find any pictures except for an image still from the Charmed Series that was filmed at Ray-Art Studios.

This photo is from Charmed: Season 6 - Episode 8; Little Monsters courtesy Filming Locations of Chicago and Los Angeles 
Former Valley Indoor Swap Meet in the center demolished but its two connected buildings layout visible. Image courtesy Bing Maps.
Valley Indoor Swap Meet replaced by Reveal Apartment buildings. Image courtesy Bing Maps.

You can view more SFV history and BTTF series here.

Sources.

Wikipedia -- Paula Kent Meehan

Wikipedia -- Redken

Paula Kent Meehan, Co-Founder of a Hair-Care Giant, Dies at 82 by Douglas Martin on June 25, 2014, New York Times

Redken Laboratories, Inc by Ed Dinger in January 2007, Encyclopedia.com

Who's in Charge Here? John Meehan Says Paula Runs Redken Labs: Paula Says He's No. 1 by Rich Rein on December 6, 1976, People Magazine

Courier Chairman, Philanthropist Paula Kent Meehan Dead at 82 by Matt Lopez & John L. Seitz on June 27, 2014, Beverly Hills Courier

Paula Kent Meehan, Redken co-founder and philanthropist, dies at 82 by Martha Groves on June 24, 2014, LA Times

James Hirsch - The Foundation, Operation, and Sale of Ray-Art Studios by Media Industries Project on September 9, 2010, Carsey-Wolf Center

Ray-Art Studios (1997 - 2003), thestudiotour.com

Redken Sells Land to Builder for $1.25 Million by LA Times on March 8, 1988

Redken's Cosmetics Plant to Relocate to Kentucky by LA Times on September 21, 1993

Redken Announces Move to Kentucky by LA Times on May 17, 1994

Developer to Turn Factory Into Studio by Jill Leovy on December 11, 1996, LA Times

Council Panel OKs Studios' Quake Loan by Sylvia L. Oliande on January 6, 1998, LA Times

AMLI Warner Center

Yelp -- AMLI Warner Center

Kenquest.com -- Meehan's management company

Additional reading but not used in this article from Encyclopedia.com:

Evans, Matthew W., "Redken Serious About Guys," WWD, April 30, 2004, p. 9.
Gordon, Mitchell, "Redken's Better Grooming," Barron's National Business and Financial Weekly, November 26, 1979, p. 47.
Johnston, David Cay, "Jheri Redding Is Dead at 91," New York Times, March 21, 1998, p. A13.
Paris, Ellen, "Snip, Snip; Sell, Sell," Forbes, September 24, 1984, p. 178.
"Redken Laboratories Seems Likely to Score 12th Straight Advance," Barron's National Business and Financial Weekly, February 21, 1977, p. 38.
"Redken's Morrison on Preparing for the Future," SalonNews, March 2000, p. 1S4.
Rundle, Rhonda L., "Redken Agrees to Be Bought by Founder for $34 a Share, or About $48.5 Million," Wall Street Journal, May 27, 1998, p. 1.
Seitz, John L., "Profile of Paula Kent Meehan," Beverly Hills Courier, December 24, 2004.

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Marty Mcfly

Anything and everything about the San Fernando Valley. This blog will take you back in time when the valley was covered with dirt and orange groves to a leader in the space race to its current status as America's suburb. Come along and join me on this adventure, I guarantee you have been influenced/impacted by the San Fernando Valley in one form or another even if you have never visited or heard of the SFV.

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