When Gary Winterhalter first started working for Sally Beauty Holdings in 1987, it was the year of international acquisitions.
The company, worth about $120 million at the time, acquired 30 stores in Great Britain that year and began looking elsewhere around the world.
Today, as the Denton-based company celebrates its 50th anniversary, with Winterhalter now the company president, Sally Beauty has stores in 10 countries outside the United States with holdings worth $4 billion.
“This is a big deal for us, a 50th anniversary,” he told a crowd gathered Wednesday at the Denton headquarters for an anniversary celebration. “I don’t know how many companies in our industry have been able to say they’ve been around for 50 years.”
Winterhalter became president in 2005 but is planning to transition out of his current role over the next year, while remaining the company’s chairman. Christian Brickman is joining as president and CEO in June.
At the anniversary celebration, Winterhalter expressed his confidence in the company and Brickman, and reflected on 50 years of success.
“It’s been exciting,” he said.
Born on the bayou
The company was founded in 1964 in New Orleans with just a few stores, but during the 1970s it began to grow.
Then, in 1982, Sally Beauty relocated its corporate headquarters to Denton.
“To all of us in the industry, that building was like the Taj Mahal,” Winterhalter said in a recent interview. “It really was, coming from our backgrounds.”
The 1980s were a period of rapid growth for the company, starting with 39 stores and ending the decade with 823. In 1983, the company introduced a new division for salon equipment and made its international debut in 1987.
“The year I joined was the first international acquisition and now we’re here,” he said.
By 1991, the company had 1,000 stores. Sales were growing, too. In 1993 the company had $500 million in annual sales and by 1998 had doubled that to $1 billion.
In 1996, the company started the Beauty Systems Group — Winterhalter’s largest project — which sells salon products exclusively to licensed professionals.
“BSG was my baby,” he said. “Our first acquisition was in Chicago to primarily get stores for Sally’s ... but when we saw those brands wanting presences in stores, the $4 million division grew through acquisitions.”
Making a move
As the business continued to expand, it began to outgrow its original facilities in Denton on Morse Street.
Officials debated moving the company south toward the homes of top-level employees, but didn’t want to lose some of the nearly 400 local employees who commuted from northern Denton County, from places such as Pilot Point and Sanger, Winterhalter said.
He’d been driving in from Highland Village and seeing the southbound traffic on Interstate 35E, and Winterhalter said he knew a location farther south would discourage employees from staying with the company.
“There were a lot of conversations and a lot of pressure from those who live south of the lake,” he said. “I lobbied very hard to keep the business in Denton, and that’s how we wound up buying the property from the hospital.”
The company purchased a 23-acre site from Denton Regional Medical Center at Brinker Road and Colorado Boulevard, and built the current headquarters there.
As the company began planning for the new building in the early 2000s, the visions were even more grandiose than what Winterhalter had considered the Taj Mahal.
“When we started outgrowing it and talked about building another building, we would literally have to pinch each other and ask, ‘Can you believe this? This is crazy,’” he remembered.
The company moved into the 200,000-square-foot building in December 2004.
Since moving into the new building, the company has continued its upward growth trajectory, going public in November 2006 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Denton Chamber of Commerce officials are glad the business stayed, chamber President Chuck Carpenter said.
“I think they should be commended for the genuine interest in wanting to be a good neighbor, and not just taking the profits and running,” Carpenter said. “They chose Denton, and we are proud they did.”
As the company has grown, so has its scholarship funds for area colleges and donations to various community groups. This has also meant more local employees and more property taxes, which show an investment in the community, Carpenter said.
“It’s important to have all sizes and shapes of businesses, but you need a nice substantial base of the ones that are employing the masses,” Carpenter said. “They are the model of what we like to see.”
JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.