Lipstick business really sticks for Heckmann

Now in her 20th year at Minnesota State Fair

Cliff Buchan
News Editor

Janet Heckmann had no doubts that the lipstick would stick.

But would a business selling lipstick at the Minnesota State Fair stick?

It didn’t take long for Heckmann to find out that it would.

When the State Fair opens its 12-day run today (Thursday), Heckmann and her merry band of family members and friends will return to the State Fair Grandstand booth where she will begin her 20th year of selling L’Paige lipsticks.

For Heckmann and her husband Roger of Forest Lake, the L’Paige business is one that continues to grow, all thanks to a relative from Texas.

The Early Days

The idea began with a visit to Forest Lake by an aunt from Texas who had discovered the Texas-made product and shared her enthusiasm with her niece. Heckmann was smitten by the product and carefully listened when her aunt encouraged her to start selling it.

Heckmann ordered a few dozen tubes and began selling it to friends and relatives. Most raved about the product.

“People loved it,” she said. “I kept mailing it out and mailing it out,” she said of the mail orders that started to flow in.

The Heckmanns began to recognize potential and took the product to the Washington County Fair where they rented booth space for years. Again, more lipstick fans were found.

That’s when the idea of the State Fair began to swirl. Heckmann was unsure if she wanted to take the risk.

Would a lipstick sales business find a niche at the fair? With a supposed waiting list of years to snag a booth, what was the sense in trying for the State Fair? It was questions of the like that ran through her mind.

“I sent in an application on a lark,” Heckmann said.

That was May. The Heckmanns were shocked when their application was accepted two months later.

“I was a nervous wreck,” she said. “How much lipstick do you need at the State Fair?”

They leased an eight-foot-by-eight-foot booth on the upstairs level of the Grandstand and began selling L’Paige products.

A TV Break

As luck would have it, a feature news story by then WCCO-TV reporter Kevyn Burger helped the business gain fans.

Burger dropped in at the booth on the first day of the fair for a story on “stuff that makes sense at the fair,” Heckmann said. Burger, armed with Heckmann’s product, set out across the fairgrounds to test the lipstick to see if it really would stick.

And test it she did, sampling a number of food items, including sweet corn. She kissed a set of twins, Heckmann recalled, and capped her report by kissing a baby pig with L’Paige lipstick on her lips.

The news segment aired on Wednesday, the seventh day of the fair.

On the second Thursday of the month as the booth opened for the day, women were waiting in a long line to check out the lipstick. “They wanted the lipstick Kevyn Burger had on,” Heckmann said.

A 2012 Tradition

The State Fair booth has become a tradition of sorts for the Heckmanns. It is also a family function as daughter Dawn Parker and daughters-in-law Heather Heckmann and Stephanie Heckmann are regular booth workers among the crew of 10 that works the fair.

Two grandchildren and a number of close Heckmann family friends also take shifts. Roger Heckmann fills in when needed. The former drywall business owner is retired but works part-time installing ramps for disabled veterans.

Many of the State Fair customers are repeat shoppers. Some have been coming back each year since the booth first opened.

Heckmann is content to not expand the business beyond its State Fair activity and its year-round mail orders. She worked the Texas State Fair one year but has no plans to test the waters at other state fairs.

With a lipstick inventory of just under 60 colors, Heckmann believes she has something for everyone. While the TV report may have given Heckmann the exposure she needed, the product sells itself, she says.

The aloe vera lipstick stays on for hours, even if you eat, drink, smoke or kiss, Heckmann says. She says the product will not come off on your teeth and stays on during sporting activities. It can be used as a base with another color applied over the top for a unique look, she said.

With its unique formula, the L’Paige designer colors magically change to a natural personal shade when applied to the lips, Heckmann said.

If You Go

Want to learn more or see the L’Paige Lipstick products for yourself?

The booth is easy to find. It’s on the upstairs level of the Grandstand facing the east side exit/entrance stairs.

The booth will be open all 12 days of the fair from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

More information can also be found on the Internet, www.lpaigeusa.com.

The State Fair business did tie a bow on another long-standing family discussion.

Roger Heckmann said the family long toyed with the idea of coming up with some kind of State Fair business.

“We were going to do chocolate covered bananas,” he says with a smile.

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