Rockford’s new cosmetics boutique has opened in grand style, combining makeup and wine with one of Napa Valley’s biggest family names. Discover more about this unique new destination.
Lydia Mondavi offers everyone the same advice about her age-defying, grape seed-based 29 cosmetics line: “Grape seed extract is actually 50 times more powerful than Vitamin E, and 20 times more powerful than Vitamin C and Vitamin D, to protect the skin from free radical damage and environmental toxins.”
She says it again on this night, at Arch Apothecary, 6876 Spring Creek Road, Rockford, where she demonstrates her products for a crowded room. Mondavi brushes on pigments, dabs in accents and colors in corners. Working from the palette she’s created across her hand, Mondavi repeats the healthful attributes of her unique cosmetics. Onlookers are amazed when Mondavi reveals her handiwork. The women trying out the makeup comment how nice it smells, how refreshing it feels.
Not so long ago, Mondavi’s line was available to Midwesterners only at Neiman-Marcus department stores and boutiques as far away as Aspen, Colo. But now women are discovering a new, unlikely destination for this and other high-end cosmetics, inside Arch. Nothing at this esthetics boutique is quite like Mondavi’s 29 brand, which combines nature-based beauty products with a California family’s famous wine.
When Lydia and Robert Mondavi Jr. stopped in Rockford a few months ago, they talked up more than their unique cosmetics and family wine brands. It was also a chance to celebrate the surprises at brand-new Arch and nearby Artale Wine Co.
“[Lydia] loves showing her cosmetics to others,” says Betsy Branca, co-owner of Arch with Lindey Koehler. “Lydia doesn’t sell her product lines through just anyone, so she wants to make sure she’s being represented well.”
Decorated with reclaimed barn-wood flooring, sleek counters and shelving, and clean lines, Arch has a decidedly modern appeal.
“I thought Rockford was a good market for something like this,” Branca says. “It’s so hard watching friends go away to college and then never come back here, because there’s really nothing aimed at young clients. This city needs something that’s young and hip and cool, and we deliver that.”
She also delivers beauty products including Ellis Faas, By Terry, Eve Lom and Julie, along with handmade soaps from locally owned Oregon Soap Shoppe, Oregon, Ill. With three licensed estheticians on staff, Arch offers expert eyebrow grooming and makeup consultations. Opened quietly in December, Arch is receiving just the reaction Branca hoped for.
“So may people say, ‘Oh, Betsy, Rockford needs this,’” Branca says. “That’s so cool.”
A Different Kind of Cosmetic
Branca and Koehler went out of their way to bring Mondavi’s products to their new store. Last fall, Branca and her husband paid a surprise visit to Mondavi’s 29 Spa in Atlanta, which incorporates grape seed extract into facials and treatments.
“We knew we had to get Lydia’s 29 cosmetics line into the store,” says Branca. “We talked about it a little, we went down there, and sold her on the idea. She was so surprised that we traveled all the way to see her.”
Mondavi says she sees the potential in this new store.
“Just seeing what they were doing, and the whole concept of their store, I thought, was amazing,” Mondavi says. “I really think Arch Apothecary can take this and launch it nationally. I think it’s a really neat concept.”
As are Mondavi’s cosmetics. Each product for the face, lips and eyes – and the bath and body treatments at 29 Spa – starts out as grape seeds harvested at the family estate near Napa, Calif. As a nod to her husband’s grandfather, the namesake of Robert Mondavi Wines, the cosmetics take their name from Napa Valley’s State Route 29, where the family’s old vineyards are located.
Grape seed extract contains antioxidants that protect and repair aging skin, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. By comparison, synthetic chemicals used in makeups – carcinogens, cattle byproducts, chloroform – have been banned by the Food and Drug Administration. Other chemicals, like mercury compounds and disinfectant, are allowed under heavy restrictions.
“Lydia always wanted to make something that benefits the skin, and a lot of makeups don’t do that,” says Robert Jr., Lydia’s husband. “She looked at all the grape seeds we were throwing away, and put two and two together.”
Maybe natural is better. Ladies trying the 29 line at Arch noticed the difference right away, during Lydia’s recent visit.
“The moisturizing part of the makeup and the grape seeds are definitely different,” says Kelly Tilstra, of Sycamore. “This sounds weird, but it doesn’t smell. Some makeups smell horrible, especially mascara. This smells like roses and grape seed. It’s awesome.”
Tilstra stares at the mirror, drawn in by the dark eyeliner and cherry-red lipstick. “Doesn’t that look good?”
Husband Shawn Tilstra admires the handiwork – and the wines he purchased around the corner at Artale. Shawn’s a wine fan, though he’s slow to admit it. He pulls out a Robert Mondavi ’97 Reserve and the Emblem cabernet, one of the family’s new craft wines.
“Robert Mondavi vintage was the first wine we really got into, to the point where we named our car after it,” he says.
But the wines he first fell in love with aren’t what they used to be. Robert Jr. and his father, Michael, left the corporately controlled Robert Mondavi Wines in 2004, and today, the father and son manage a new craft winery. This time, they’re sticking to their roots, importing family-made labels from around the world, and concocting their own blends.
Thanks to family connections, the Mondavis’ Folio brand has imported labels such as Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi from Italy, and Prinz Von Hessen from Germany; it’s also recruited other family operations in Spain, Austria, Italy and Argentina.
“We won’t represent a corporately owned business, because we really believe in the longevity and the multi-generational impact that families have, continuing quality and vision – there’s some stability,” Robert Jr. says.
The family also blends several craft wines, making just a few hundred cases each year of custom chardonnays, roses, Pinot Noirs, and a classic Bordeaux.
“The reason we have many different brands is that, much like you and your family, not everyone likes salmon cooked the same way with the same sauce,” Robert Jr. says. “Much like my family, we all have different tastes in wine.”
During his visit, Robert Jr. shared advice at Artale Wine Co.
“How long should you lay down the wine?” asks one man, sipping a Mondavi blend.
“The Emblem, I think, is ready to drink now, and I would say it can easily go 10, 15 years,” Robert Jr. says. “The thing is, though, that I like wines that are eight to 10 years old – that’s my favorite. On wines that are over $30 … you can feel comfortable drinking them now or aging them.”
Tony Artale, general manager at Artale Wine Co., takes it all in. He displays nearly 1,100 varieties of wines and craft beers. From Mondavi’s Folio collection, Artale carries Spellbound, Oberon and Isabella Mondavi wines, along with a few imports.
“I’ve tried some of his wines, but the ones we’re trying tonight are new,” says Artale. “I tasted them tonight and I said, ‘Oh, they’re excellent.’”
Still, after a long career dealing wine, this is his first encounter with a Mondavi.
“You think of California, wine and Mondavi, and they just go together,” Artale says. “Robert’s grandfather was the greatest force in making California wines what they are, and that’s exciting. I’ve been in this business 42 years, and I’ve never thought any Mondavi would get to Rockford. In California, you meet them, but not here.” ❚