Margrit Bessenroth has been turning heads on the island of Palm Beach since her arrival in 1965.
She and her husband, Udo, were living in their native Germany when they decided they wanted to move to a warmer climate. Her husband had traveled throughout the States and thought Palm Beach was the best place to live, she said.
“I grew up in Bremerhaven, Germany in a working-class family. My father was a fisherman,” said Bessenroth. “My high school days were spent choosing a career. I had good hands, a natural artistic sense and talent for working with hair. By the time I came to Palm Beach, I had had three years of intensive training in chemistry, skin and hair plus five years of practical experience.
“Elizabeth Arden hired me. I was terrified. I couldn’t speak a word of English, but I learned. The following year I took the (state cosmetology) test, qualified and started working the season in Palm Beach from Nov. 15 to May 15, and the rest of the year in New York. I was doing up to 60 clients a day. It was the best life. There were parties three and four times a week.”
Bessenroth recalls the 1960s and ’70s as glamorous decades. By 1980, she decided to open her own shop – Salon Margrit – next to the original Café L’Europe on the second floor of the newly built Esplanade.
In 1987, one of her clients was trying to sell a property she owned: the 1929 Tudor building on the corner of Brazilian Avenue and South County Road.
Bessenroth had loved the distinctive building since the day she came to Palm Beach. So she sold her five properties in Rhode Island and West Palm Beach, and bought it.
By 1990, Salon Margrit was open in a new location. The plan was to have a full-service salon, plus boutiques in the style of her mentor, Elizabeth Arden.
“I started going to Margrit 40 years ago when she worked for Elizabeth Arden on Worth Avenue near Renato’s. I have a standing appointment every Friday,” said Palm Beach resident Arlette Gordon. “She has a natural way with color and cut. Always has a smile on her face. She is very generous to people like me who go to her for donations for my charities.”
Today, Salon Margrit houses several businesses: A hair salon for men and women that offers facials and make-up; a full-service spa offering deep tissue massage, reflexology, and tanning services; a nail salon; and Abby’s on the Island, a clothing and jewelry boutique.
Her daughters-in-law, retailer Abby Bessenroth and stylist Melrose Bessenroth, have joined the business and brought a contemporary vibe to the mix. Abby’s on the Island carries elegant island clothing, accessories, shoes and jewelry. Melrose Bessenroth specializes in working with long hair, extensions and Balayage, a French hair painting technique.
“I love hair. It’s all about color, tone on tone. I know what’s best for hair and I’m really fussy,” said Margrit Bessenroth.
“She is so full of common sense, so full of love for her clients,” said Molly Charland, a client of 30 years. “She is funny and gives great advice. I have never walked out of there without looking terrific.”
August and September Specials
Beauty Day on Tuesdays and Thursdays that includes a facial, massage, manicure, pedicure and blow dry is $300 (it is regularly $500). There also is 30% off all wax services on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Microdermabrasion is $150; it is regularly $285
165 Brazilian Ave.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Daily News: ‘Natural artistic sense,’ training help Salon Margrit owner thrive in Palm Beach
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