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  • Staff photo by BOB HAMMERSTROM

    Darlene O'Hara, left, shows a robe to her friend, Pam Fariole at her new business, Darlene's Bath & Body Lounge in Merrimack Thursday, April 26, 2012.

  • Staff photo by BOB HAMMERSTROM

    Emile LaChance looks on as Darlene O'Hara talks about her new business, Darlene's Bath & Body Lounge in Merrimack Thursday, April 26, 2012.

  • Staff photo by BOB HAMMERSTROM

    Darlene O'Hara, right, tries a little lipstick on her friendm Roslyn Koonce-Hines at her new business, Darlene's Bath & Body Lounge in Merrimack Thursday, April 26, 2012.

  • Staff photo by BOB HAMMERSTROM

    Darlene's Bath & Body Lounge in Merrimack Thursday, April 26, 2012.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Former hand model bringing a bit of luxury to Merrimack with beauty store

MERRIMACK – Winter has come and gone, but the worn and cracked skin that remains doesn’t wear well with Darlene O’Hara.

O’Hara, a Dallas native, held a grand opening of her business, Darlene’s Bath & Body Lounge, last week, welcoming customers to sample her range of skin, body and cosmetic products to heal their weathered faces.

“The weather here is so brutal … and the women, I notice their skin can be kind of rough,” she said with a laugh. “I’m just trying to bring a little bit of luxury to New Hampshire.”

O’Hara’s product lines, ranging from I love my muff to FarmHouse Fresh to TokyoMilk, among others, aren’t typically available around the New Hampshire region, she said.

To open the store, she worked with distributors outside of the state to bring them here.

“Why do you have to go all the way to Massachusetts to get good products?” O’Hara asked. “You shouldn’t have to travel to find them, so, I figured … I’ll bring the products here.”

O’Hara herself followed a winding road to New Hampshire.

After graduating from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, she pursued an acting career in New York. During the 1980s, she had a three-year run on the noted soap opera “As The World Turns.” She appeared in several commercials and eventually landed gigs as one of the country’s leading hand models.

“I just developed this love for clothes and shoes, skin and bath products,” she said.

After her career stalled, however, she shifted to the corporate world, working as an executive assistant for Lehman Brothers Holdings, among other firms. Soon after, she lost her job and followed a boyfriend to New Hampshire in 2007.

With dreams of opening a beauty store of her own, O’Hara worked for several years to set the foundation. She met with potential landlords and investors, but it wasn’t until she met Emile LaChance, a retired construction contractor, that her dream became a reality.

With LaChance’s encouragement, and some start-up money, O’Hara agreed to lease the storefront on Milford Road and opened the store in January.

“I had driven by (the location) a thousand times,” she said of the former Sprint store. “It’s a great location. It’s worked out perfectly.”

Three months later, some obstacles remain.

Foot traffic is slow thus far, but with the Merrimack Premium Outlets set to open in June, O’Hara is confident business will pick up.

“The mall will really bring more traffic to the area,” said Deb Courtemanche, executive director of the Merrimack Chamber of Commerce, which has helped to promote the business, along with others, as the mall prepares to open.

“(Darlene’s) products are of the higher end,” Courtemanche said last week. “With the new visitors coming to Premium Outlets, they will certainly be the right audience for her.”

Featuring other product lines, like Cake, Swanky Sweet Pea and Jack Black, among others, customers will find a different level of items than at the outlet mall, O’Hara said.

The mall, scheduled to open June 14, is scheduled to include more than 100 clothing, home goods and other retail stores to fill the center, including Bloomingdale’s, Sak’s Fifth Avenue, Ann Taylor, and Gap, among others.

Shoppers also will find a different level of customer service at Darlene’s.

“With me, you don’t have to worry about parking; you don’t have to worry about traffic,” she said. “It’s just very comfortable here. You’ll find what you’re looking for.

“We don’t need more products (in New Hampshire),” she said. “We just need better products. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Jake Berry can be reached at 594-6402 or