I hate final stories when they are premature. Warren Buffett got to write his autobiography and he is 81 and still going strong. Paul was only 56 and no one could predict his fate. Paul was a rebel rouser from the day he was born to the day he died. I knew him for more than 20 years and we shared a lot of history together. This is a story of his story.
The Rebel Rouser, Tolnafoil
Paul and his brother, Michael, started in the salon business in Virginia. It was there that Paul learned about nail fungus and nail polish. With his doctorate background (I never did know if he was a licensed physician), he developed a product to prevent fungus in finger and toe nails, Tolnafoil. It was jojoba-based and contained an ingredient called tolnaftate. He marketing it like crazy, did seminars preaching its benefits and it sold like hotcakes. Everyone thought he was crazy and the product was more of a placebo than anything else. Paul’s response to his naysayers was to spend more money advertising and sell more of it.
The Rebel Rouser, Formula 3
Never content, Paul went on to develop a product that would cure nail fungus and called it Formula 3. He advertised it in trade journals and gave the look of the ads a scientific feel and he was donned in a white lab coat. The icon I remember best was the microscope looking at the fungus. More than anything, he was a schemer and marketer. He learned well. Quickly, nail techs bought Formula 3 and it became a runaway best seller. It brought on a rash of imitators but stayed the leader through his relentless travel doing seminars.
The Rebel Rouser, Seminair
Paul and I had schemed together to create the first seminar on an airplane. We chartered a plane from Detroit to Atlantic City and actually did a seminar on the plane. On the ground, we completed the seminar, had a great dinner for all and went back the following day. Over 100 nail techs participated and it was an event never to be repeated again.
The Rebel Rouser, Peau Fest
By now, distributors were drinking the Kool-Aid and making a lot of money. Paul was never content on his success and he always wanted to share it and better yet, slam his competitors (his continued naysayers). The first Peau Fest was held in Virginia. He paid for all his distributors to come in and he wined and dined them for the entire event. Rumors were always going on how much money he spent on this. For his second Peau Fest, he actually rented a yacht and brought his distributors on board. I will never forget sleeping overnight on this boat and getting sea sick. But it was truly an experience.
The Rebel Rouser, Enamel
The nail polish market was dominated in the early 90’s by Essie, Forsythe, Charni and other $1.00 a bottle brands. Paul decided to get into the business and sell it for $5.00 a bottle. Again, his naysayers were many but Paul did what Paul wanted to do. He came out with a line of polish and I remember that the polish was packed in trays of 108, 648 to a pallet and we couldn’t keep them in stock. Star colors were French Pink and Soft White. While Orly invented the French Manicure, Paul re-invented it. At the same time, OPI came out with their polish and Orly became very competitive in the marketplace. Needless to say, Paul had his fights with both of them but continued to sell tons of polish.
The Rebel Rouser, Trade Shows
Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s nail trade shows were wildly popular and well attended. Paul wasn’t content on taking a booth, no sir. Paul took the equivalent of 8 booths and created a Peau de Peche store. I remember us doing this format at our shows and we would routinely do over $20,000 in sales in two days. Nail techs used shopping baskets and filled them up.
The Rebel Rouser, Dark Days
Like any brazen entrepreneur, Paul had his dark days and they came in the early 2000’s as distribution started changing and OPI became entrenched in the nail polish business. The Peau name was retired and Paul reinvented the company with a new name and a new focus: Tetra Corporation. See the reinvention start here.
The Rebel Rouser, New Horizons
Paul was granted a patent for Formula 3 in 2007 and thus became his crusade and mission to invade podiatrist’s offices. He hired independent contractors who visited podiatrists with his signature product. Slowly but surely, sales started to go up and within a couple years, sales exploded. Formula 3 would become the #1 anti-fungal seller in the podiatrist market. See the trade ad here.
A True Italian In Every Way
Paul loved to eat, drink and have fun. The BUB would refer to him as having a “puppy face”. Short and stocky, Paul had the art of WOO and people either loved him or hated him. He didn’t care. To his friends, he was a loyalist. For my 40th birthday, he and his wife flew in to Detroit, rented a limo, took us to the Whitney (very high end restaurant), bought us Dom and then left the next day. He was one of five guys in my wedding party. He attended my son’s Bar Mitzvah’s. Most recently, he would drive down with his second wife, Marta, just to have lunch and shoot the “s___.” Only a month ago, he held his first annual “Guy’s Feast” at his house. 400 guys attended the wild party in which Paul cooked 200 pounds EACH of Kobe steaks, lamb chops, lobster tails, crab legs, shrimp and deep fried pork belly. He had a 49 gallon oak keg delivered of Jack Daniel’s. Paul loved to be the ultimate host and expense was never an issue.
When he and Marta moved to Michigan, he became a huge Spartan fan. He tailgated every game with his Hummers, portable grills and heaters and personally cooked the eggs, hot dogs and other grilled food. Beer, cigars and fun were always free-flowing before and after the games. In fact, I just saw him at the Minnesota game where he was cooking up breakfast sandwiches with left over Kobe beef from his big party.
The Rebel Rouser, Big Dreamer
To his very end, Paul dreamt big. He loved big Hummers, big limos, big cigars and his biggest dream of all was the home he was building with Marta. All I know is that the home was to have an indoor riding track for his horses. If there was someone who lived life large, it was Paul. He experienced life right up to his last moment.
To those that knew him, he will be missed. I know we will miss him. Paul is perhaps my first contemporary that has passed away that was a friend. Steve Jobs too was 56 and died tragic. I will reiterate my stance on life: We each have 1/3 genes, 1/3 luck and 1/3 how we take care of ourselves. Life is short, enjoy each and everyday you get out of bed.