For Janet Gurwitch Bristow, retail is in her blood.
Her father owned Smart Shoe Store in Hattiesburg and other shoe stores around the state, and her grandfather owned shoe stores in Brookhaven.
And while Bristow had a Southern upbringing and a very happy childhood — Hattiesburg, she said, was a wonderful place to be — she decided to leave it all for that retail in her blood. When she recently attended her 30th high school reunion in Hattiesburg, she attended as CEO and co-founder of Gurwitch Bristow Products, the company that manages, produces and markets Laura Mercier Cosmetics and Skincare.
Bristow began her career in retail after graduating from the University of Alabama. She went to work in Houston at Foley’s Department Store, joining the executive training program.
Her first job at Foley’s was that of assistant buyer, but soon she moved up to senior vice president at Foley’s, one of only two women on the executive board.
In 1991 she moved to Dallas to become the executive vice president of Neiman Marcus, and became the only female member on the department store’s executive board, and the third highest ranking official in the company.
By 1995, the Hattiesburg native was ready to go out on her own. Bristow, who had begun to see changes in the cosmetics market, started thinking about buying Bobbi Brown Cosmetics. But after getting some financial backing for the acquisition, Leonard Lauder, chairman of Est