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Jory Luster

Hair care manufacturer Jory Luster was born on August 20, 1953 in Chicago, Illinois to Blondell and Fred Luster, Sr. After graduating from Mendel Catholic Preparatory High School in 1971, Luster received his B.S. degree in business administration from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, in 1975. Luster went on to attend Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, where he received his M.B.A. degree in 2000.

In 1978, Luster was appointed vice president of his family’s hair care company, Luster Products, Inc., founded in 1957, with his father, Fred Luster, serving as president and his mother, Blondell Luster, working as chairman of the board. In 1989, he helped create Luster Products, Inc.’s philanthropic branch, the Luster Foundation, dedicated to supporting community-based organizations that promote positive values and community service. That same year, he was voted chairman of the American Health and Beauty Aids Institute, a national trade organization representing the leading Black manufacturers of ethnic hair care and cosmetic products. Luster was promoted to his role as president of Luster Products, Inc. following the passing of his father in 1991. His brother and sister were also directors in the company, with Fred Luster II serving as vice president and director of research and development, and Sonja Luster-Munis serving as vice president and director of systems administration. In 2012, Luster’s daughter, Resa B. Luster, joined the company as assistant brand manager; and, in 2018, she was promoted to brand manager at large. Under Luster’s leadership, Luster Products, Inc. expanded product sales to over seventy countries internationally.

Luster served as the founder of the Leadership Education Advancement Program, or Project L.E.A.P., and served on the boards of the Near South Planning Board Executive Committee, The Luster Foundation, and Seaway National Bank. Luster was also a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) from 1993 to 2004, and served on the City of Chicago Circulator Board.

In 2018, Luster received the WDB Marketing L.E.G.A.C.Y Award. Luster Products, Inc. was honored at Black United Fund of Illinois Inc.’s first annual "Living Legends/Passing the Torch" awards benefit in 2001. The company has been featured in Essence magazine, Allure Magazine, Elle Magazine, Ebony Magazine, Jet Magazine, Sophisticate’s Black Hair Magazine, the Chicago Sun-times, The Chicago Defender, as well as WLS-TV Channel 7, WTTW-PBS Channel 11, and on the T.L.C. show, “Beauty Spaces.”

Luster resides in Chicago, Illinois and has three adult children.

Jory Luster was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 10, 2019.

Accession Number

A2019.047

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/10/2019

Last Name

Luster

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

F.

Schools

St. Dorothy School

Mendel Catholic Preparatory High School

Bradley University

Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Business

First Name

Jory

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

LUS01

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

Always Inspect What You Expect

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

8/20/1953

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Soul Food

Short Description

Hair care manufacturer Jory Luster (1953- ) served as vice president of his family’s hair care company, Luster Products, Inc., since 1978, and as president since 1991.

Employment

Luster Products, Inc.

Favorite Color

Blue, Silver, and Black

Gary E. Gardner

Hair care manufacturer Gary Gardner was born on August 22, 1954 in Chicago, Illinois to Edward and Bettiann Gardner. He graduated from the University of Illinois, Chicago with his B.A. degree in pre-law in 1975, and then attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where he earned both his J.D. and M.M. degrees in 1982.

In 1964, at age ten, Gardner began working for the family business, Soft Sheen Products, Inc., packaging hair care items with his younger sister in the family’s home in Chicago. After graduating from Northwestern in 1982, Gardner rejoined Soft Sheen Products, Inc. and transitioned to president in 1985, succeeding his father, Ed Gardner, who remained as chairman. He served as president until 1996, when he stepped down to pursue his own ethnic hair care company in Chicago called Namaste Laboratories, with his wife, Denise. In 1999, Gardner and his wife launched their own philanthropic organization, the Gary and Denise Family Foundation, which focused on youth participation in the arts. Namaste Laboratories was later bought by the Indian consumer goods producer, Dabur India Ltd., in 2010, and Gardner remained with his management team to continue running the laboratory. In 2014, Gardner co-founded a private equity firm based out of Chicago called P.F.G., LLC, where he also served as president. The following year, Gardner and his wife established the Denise and Gary Gardner Scholarship at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2015 to assist undergraduate students’ education at the Art Institute, primarily those from the South Side.

Gardner has been a member of the American Health and Beauty Aids Institute, and during his time as president of Soft Sheen, the company received several awards, including being ranked sixth on Black Enterprise’s top 100 service industry companies in 1987 and, two years later, receiving the title of the Company of the Year by Black Enterprise.

Gardner and his wife reside in Chicago, Illinois, where they run the Gary and Denise Family Foundation and maintain a private art collection. The couple was awarded the Art Alliance of Illinois’ Citizen’s Advocate Award in 2018.

Gary Gardner was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 13, 2019.

Accession Number

A2019.060

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/13/2019

Last Name

Gardner

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

E.

Schools

Northwestern University

University of Illinois at Chicago

First Name

Gary

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

GAR07

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Southern Florida

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

8/22/1954

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Chicken Wings

Short Description

Hair care manufacturer Gary Gardner (1954 - ) served as president of Soft Sheen Products, Inc from 1985 to 1996, before founding hair care company, Namaste Laboratories, in 1996 and private equity firm, P.F.G., LLC, in 2014.

Employment

Soft Sheen Products, Inc.

Namaste Laboratories

P.F.G., LLC

Favorite Color

Blue

Terri Gardner

Hair care manufacturer and advertising executive Terri Gardner was born on February 21, 1956 in Chicago, Illinois, to Edward and Bettiann Gardner. She attended and graduated from the University of Illinois, Chicago where she received her B.A. degree in photography and film in 1979. She later earned her M.S.W. degree in social work from Loyola University of Chicago in 2007.

Gardner started working with the family business, Soft Sheen Products, Inc., in 1965, packaging hair care products in her family’s Chicago home. She continued working at the company through college, and after graduating, she launched an advertising firm called Brainstorm Communications in 1981, which served as Soft Sheen Products, Inc.’s in-house advertising and publishing company. Brainstorm Communications’ clients also included the American Health and Beauty Aids Institute, Advance Parking Technologies, Inc., Chicago’s 1992 “Project Vote!”, and Chicago’s New Regal Theatre Foundation. Brainstorm was also the lead agency that created “Come Alive Oct, 5” campaign that registered hundreds of thousands of voters in Chicago. In 1996, Gardner stepped down from her position as president of Brainstorm Communications when she was appointed president of Soft Sheen Products, Inc., succeeding her older brother, Gary E. Gardner, who resigned to start his own ethnic hair care company, Namaste Laboratories. L’Oreal bought Soft Sheen Products, Inc. two years later in 1998, and Gardner remained there as its president. In 2000, she was hired to work with U.S. Representative Bobby Rush on his “Cease Fire” campaign, aimed at addressing violence and crimes against women on Chicago’s South Side. That same year, L’Oreal acquired hair care company, Carson Products, out of Georgia, which had previously acquired Chicago’s Johnson Products. Gardner led L’Oreal’s merger of Carson Products with Soft Sheen Products, Inc., creating a single brand, Soft Sheen-Carson, which she remained to serve as president of for one year. In 2001, after thirty-six years with the company, she retired from Soft Sheen-Carson.

Gardner has served on the board of directors for the Social Venture Network, the Jazz Institute of Chicago, Trinity Hospital Community Board, and was also part of the leadership at a spiritual center in Chicago.

In 1987, Soft Sheen Products, Inc. ranked number six in Black Enterprise magazine’s industrial/service sector top 100 companies; and, in 1989, they were named the Company of the Year. They were selected for the top 100 again, ranking number eleven in 1995.

Terri Gardner was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 8, 2019.

Accession Number

A2019.058

Sex

Female

Interview Date

7/8/2019

Last Name

Gardner

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Schools

University of Illinois at Chicago

First Name

Terri

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

GAR06

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

New Mexico or Alaska

Favorite Quote

Be Who You Is

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

2/21/1956

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

French Fries

Short Description

Hair care manufacturer and advertising executive Terri Gardner (1957- ) founded her own advertising firm, Brainstorm Communications, which was the in-house advertising and publishing agency for her family’s hair care company, Soft Sheen Products, Inc., where she later served as president.

Employment

Brainstorm Communications

Soft Sheen Products. Inc.

Soft Sheen-Carson

Favorite Color

Green

Bettiann Gardner

Hair care manufacturer Bettiann Gardner was born in Chicago, Illinois. Gardner Working with her husband and business partner, Edward, Bettiann Gardner became an innovator in African American hair care when she co-founded Soft Sheen Products, Inc. in 1964. Soft Sheen Products began in the couple's basement in Chicago; their goal was to create better hair care products designed specifically for African Americans. With brands such as Optimum and Care Free Curl, Soft Sheen Products grew into a multimillion-dollar enterprise employing over four hundred Chicagoans. Exporting to Canada, the Caribbean, and West Africa, the company became a global force, eventually being purchased by the L'Oreal group in 1998.

From the beginning of her business activities, Gardner saw to it that each of her children were also involved in Soft Sheen Products. A staunch advocate of the arts and African American theater, Gardner helped to revitalize the old Regal Theater by contributing millions toward the purchase of the once-dormant Avalon Theater in 1987. As further testament to her commitment to the arts, Gardner also supported the New Regal Theater Foundation, and acted as chairwoman of the Chicago Sinfonietta's honorary board of directors.

Gardner and Edward, her husband of over fifty years, raised four children.

Accession Number

A2002.168

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/26/2002

Last Name

Gardner

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

Kennedy–King College

First Name

Bettiann

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

GAR02

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

What you see, is what you get

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

6/26/1930

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Gumbo

Short Description

Hair care manufacturer Bettiann Gardner (1930 - ) is the co-founder of Chicago's Soft Sheen Products and New Regal Theatre. Along with her husband, Ed Gardner, Gardner is an active philanthropist in Chicago.

Employment

Chicago Public Library

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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7511">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Bettiann Gardner interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7512">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Bettiann Gardner briefly gives her parents' names and places of birth</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7513">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Bettiann Gardner talks about her grandparents and her relationships with them</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7514">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Bettiann Gardner talks about her parents' backgrounds</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7515">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Bettiann Gardner lists some of her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7516">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Bettiann Gardner lists more of her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7517">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Bettiann Gardner recalls her personality as a child and describes her home life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7518">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Bettiann Gardner describes her neighborhood as a child</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7519">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Bettiann Gardner talks about her mother's political activities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7520">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Bettiann Gardner talks briefly about her religious affiliation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7521">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Bettiann Gardner recalls her early school years</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7522">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Bettiann Gardner talks about her courtship and marriage to Edward Gardner</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7523">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Bettiann Gardner talks about her grandfather's stories as a Pullman porter</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7524">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Bettiann Gardner talks about the origins of New Regal Theater</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7525">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Bettiann Gardner discusses the purpose and programs of the New Regal Theatre</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7526">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Bettiann Gardner talks about her activities with the Chicago Sinfonietta</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7527">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Bettiann Gardner talks briefly about her involvement with the Committee of 200 organization</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7528">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Bettiann Gardner details the origins of the Soft Sheen Products hair care empire</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7529">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Bettiann Gardner talks about her family's participation at Soft Sheen and selling the company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7530">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Bettiann Gardner details the sale of the Soft Sheen Products company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7531">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Bettiann Gardner talks more about the sale of Soft Sheen Products and her daughter's role in the transition</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7532">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Bettiann Gardner talks about her daughter's activities after stepping down as CEO of Soft Sheen Products</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7533">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Bettiann Gardner shares her personal philosophy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7534">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Bettiann Gardner talks about how she would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7535">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Bettiann Gardner details her activities as publisher of 'ShopTalk' trade magazine</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7536">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Bettiann Gardner talks about her ownership of the Chicago Bulls professional basketball team</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/7537">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Bettiann Gardner talks about her role as a grandmother</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

2$6

DATitle
Bettiann Gardner talks about the origins of New Regal Theater
Bettiann Gardner details her activities as publisher of 'ShopTalk' trade magazine
Transcript
Bronzeville [Chicago, Illinois] was bustling at that time. What do you--what was Bronzeville--?$$(Simultaneously) Oh yeah.$$Like from your point of view?$$Well the New Re--, The New Regal Theatre was at 47th and [Martin Luther] King [Jr.] drive. And every weekend my brothers and I would go to the Regal. We would put on our Sunday best and go to the Regal for what, what was ever playing there. And so we enjoyed that very much. And saw all of the--these people who are stars today. Billy Eckstine and Dizzy Gillespie and everybody was there performing.$$And well since you mentioned the Regal, now let me ask you about when you decided to do the Regal. Would you tell me how that whole idea to create the New Regal [Theatre] Foundation, how it actually started?$$Well my daughter [Terri Gardner] had a friend, Ed Wilkerson. And he and his group would play at all kind of terrible places. Down in the basement, up in the loft with part of the roof gone (laughs). And they were excellent musicians. And very clean--cut fellows. And so I always said, "Well, you know, with the way that they play in all these horrible places and they do such a good job with their music, they really deserve to play somewhere where it's really a nice atmosphere. A nice place." And so we thought of the--(unclear) the Regal Theatre was for sale. Not the Regal, the Avalon Theater was for sale. And we thought that would be a very good venue. And (pause) so that's what--you know, one of the reasons. And then we felt that plays should be on the South Side [Chicago, Illinois]. Because we attended a lot of plays. And we'd have to travel north up and down one street. And, you know, really hard to find places to--where performances were being held. So we felt that something should be on the South Side for entertainment and entertainers.$Is there anything relevant to us knowing something else about Bettiann Louise Gueno Gardner? (laughs) I remembered.$$Yes.$$Is there anything I didn't ask you maybe I should have? Or something that you would like to comment or share with us as we come to the wrap-up?$$Well we didn't mention 'ShopTalk'--publication that I was publisher of. Which was another vehicle for communicating with the beauticians. I think they're called cosmetologists. Some call them cosmetologists. But that was to give all the things that we knew and also international news that we brought to the beauticians from around the world from all over this country. When we first started there was a magazine publication called--I think it was 'Beauty Trade'. And I would read that. And in the morning when I'd go to the office and I would read it from cover to cover. And just learned a lot about the industry. Who is in the industry. Who was in the industry and what was going on and everything. So madam--not madam, but Dr. [Marjorie Stewart] Joyner did a column that I found most interesting to the beauticians coming up. How they should carry themselves. How they should look in their shops. And so then that magazine was no longer. So therefore, 'ShopTalk' took that place. And we tried to fill that void. Which I really think that we did. And we had articles and very helpful.$$That's an extremely successful trade magazine.$$(Simultaneously) Yeah, yeah. Mm-hmm.$$Now when did you suspend publication?$$Hmm, I don't remember exactly when. But--.$$(Simultaneously) But it lasted about what ten or twelve years?$$Yeah, my--one of my best girlfriends Jean Brandon was the editor. And she had had editorial background. Plus she was a teacher. And she did a really good job with that.