C.B. Sullivan, Pioneering Beauty Distributor, Dies at 66
The hundreds of heartfelt tributes on the company’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/PMNNE) shine a light on the extraordinary passion, innovation, generosity and charisma embodied by Charles “C.B.” Bernard Sullivan, Jr. “Our super positive and happy dear friend has left his earthly body and is now a happy angel,” writes Paul Mitchell CEO and Co-Founder John Paul DeJoria. And from Susan Pugh, a distributor sales consultant at Masello Salon Services and former employee: “When I think of C.B. two words come to mind: charisma and visionary! He loved life and the beauty industry, and his greatest love was for his children and family. It was an honor to work for him. I hope God has put C.B. in charge of the beauty industry in heaven.”
C.B. Sullivan died October 7, 2015 from a sudden illness while traveling in Colorado. His son, Tyler Sullivan, reports that his family was by his side.
C.B. with John Paul DeJoria
As the founder of C.B. Sullivan Company in New Hampshire, and co-founder of Paul Mitchell Northern New England, C.B. Sullivan helped to define the role of the modern distributor in the professional beauty industry, with strategies that have now become industry standards, including liter duo promotions, holiday gift sets and the integration of stores into the distribution model. “[Matrix Founder] Arnie Miller once gave my dad a ceramic statue of the Mad Hatter,” remembers Tyler, “and the face of the statue was my dad’s. He said he was the ‘Mad Marketer.’”
C.B. and Matrix Founder Arnie Miller
C.B. was born in Manchester, NH. His father operated a barber supply company out of the basement of the family home, and traveled throughout New England selling barber essentials like Stephan’s Hair Tonic. After college, C.B. moved to New Jersey, where he accepted a position as a manufacturer’s representative with The Wild Company, and represented a Minneapolis-based company called LaMaur. In short order, word of his energy, creativity and effectiveness in building the LaMaur brand reached Arnie Miller, who offered him the opportunity to introduce Matrix in New England. C.B. decided to purchase his father’s business and he set to work with Miller to build the Matrix brand. Soon after, at a hair show, a buzzy young company called Paul Mitchell caught his attention. Sensing something special about the company, he approached DeJoria and said, “I want to be the guy that introduces Paul Mitchell to New England.” The two struck a deal, and with those two powerful brands, C.B. Sullivan was on its way to becoming the most prominent distributor in the region.
With good friend and family mentor Doug Cox
Fifteen years ago, C.B. had another idea. He traveled to New York, where the JCPenney salons were headquartered at the time, and proposed the establishment of a network of national distributors to handle distribution for the chain of 900+ salons. The JCPenney executives agreed, and he quickly called prominent distributors on the West Coast, in the Midwest and in the Southeast and put together the program. “That deal,” comments Tyler, “made us a household name.”
C.B. with Tyler, Lauren and Kerry
When C.B. sold his company to Salon Centric in 2010, he had a network of 32 stores throughout six states, close to 300 employees and had grown the company from $160,000 in sales when he purchased it from his father, to $60 million. After the sale, he evolved his relationship with DeJoria and Paul Mitchell, and created Paul Mitchell Northern New England with his children, Tyler, Kerry, and Lauren. While his former stake in the company has now been redistributed to his children, says Tyler, they are proud to maintain his spirit, vision and direction in their work including small tributes like the ‘Sully’s Specials’ logo, which depicts a CB-looking character.”
Equally important as his business acumen in the equation of his success, says Tyler, were his infectious personality and his skill at establishing and maintaining relationships. “He remembered everyone’s name,” Tyler shares. “He remembered their kids’ names. He made everyone feel special—because they truly meant something to him. He never got too big for his britches.”
This example of humility is one that Tyler and his siblings are conscious of carrying into the future. “He taught us that if we stick to the business ethics and morals we were taught, everything will fall into place. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Recognize that our customers’ success is our success. Stay out of the ivory tower and in the field, because that’s where we identify and solve the problems that make a difference for our customers. Already, we have found all of that to be 100 percent true.”
Friends and associates also know that C.B. was an open-hearted philanthropist who supported a wide range of charities, including the Manchester Police Athletic League, which helps inner-city youth enjoy a better quality of life, and the Precious Blood Monastery. Additionally, he employed a number of individuals with developmental challenges who thrived under his leadership.
C.B. is survived by his wife Esther and her five children; his former wife Linda; his children Tyler, Kerry and Lauren; three grandchildren and four siblings and their families.
The family asks all donations be sent to:
Manchester Police Athletic League, 405 Valley St., Manchester, NH 03103 or
Precious Blood Monastery, 700 Bridge St., Manchester, NH 03104.