As Director of Major Accounts/Corporate Trainer, Gary Meunier usually has his hands full at Heartland Tanning, Inc. Among many other sales-related duties, he acts as a liaison between purchasing vendors and the distribution company’s sales team, while also training salon owners to market and sell the many popular lotion products that Heartland distributes. Through it all, Gary displays a unique, some might say quirky personality and sense of humor. ist Magazine had to find out more about this delightful individual…
Mention the name Gary Meunier and many salon owners across the country not only recognize it, they also think of him fondly. Why? Because Gary is the kind of guy who has an uncanny knack for drawing people to him, and this magnetic quality is the by-product of his upbringing. He is fortunate to come from a family that is as fun-loving as it is close, and much of that rubbed off on him, helping to make him the person he is today: someone who will continue to make friends and influence people through his friendly and influential personality.
Gary Meunier was born November 27, 1966, the youngest child and only son of Jack and Ruth Meunier of Kansas City, MO. Jack was an industrial hygienist, while his mother worked in the local school district so she could be available to Gary and his sisters – Suzanne and Rochelle. Together, the couple provided a home that was as warm and lively. “My dad had a very serious job, so I think he liked to unwind when he came home by playing practical jokes,” said Gary. “One time, he pretended that he broke his tooth while eating a piece of pecan pie that Suzanne had baked – he even spit out a piece of shell to convince her that she had accidentally baked it into the pie!” Gary describes his mother as practical, loving and supportive of him and his sisters. “There was always that ‘mother-knows-best’ undertone in everything she said,” he laughed.
During Gary’s teen years, his home was known as an open and friendly environment. “Our house was the hangout for nearly every kid in the neighborhood, probably because my mom was always feeding everyone who stopped over,” he said. “More than once, I would be up in my room studying while my friends would come to talk to my mom and dad because they were good listeners who always gave helpful advice. Whenever I found out about it, I would tell my friends that they could have at least said ‘hello’ to me, too!” When he wasn’t at home studying, Gary worked in a young men’s clothing department at a local shopping mall. “I probably spent every penny I earned on clothes; but it did allow me to win the best-dressed award all four years in high school,” he said.
Gary graduated from high school in 1985 and enrolled at Rockhurst University, a private Jesuit college near his home. “Many of my friends went away to school and I heard about all of their fun experiences, so I decided I wanted to go away, too,” he said. “After just one year at Kansas University, I decided that it was better for me to be closer to home. I began attending the University of Missouri at Kansas City and graduated in 1991 with a Bachelor’s degree in business administration with a marketing concentration.” Gary began his post-collegiate career in his area of expertise – manager at a retail department store – until his brother-in-law told him about another opportunity. “He got a job at Heartland Tanning and told me about all the different tanning products and how exciting it was to work in this new, up-and-coming industry,” he said. “I’m very thankful that Greg Henson (Heartland CEO) gave me this opportunity because I absolutely love it!”
In October 2010, Gary’s life changed dramatically after losing his father to Lou Gehrig’s disease. Jack Meunier lived for more than three years after his diagnosis and, although his body continued to shut down, Gary says his dad retained his characteristic smile and sense of humor until the very end. “What was most extraordinary was how my mom put many of her health issues aside in order to take care of him and give him all the comforts of home,” he said. “I couldn’t help but feel like a spectator to a beautiful and endearing love affair, and it is that bond and commitment that deeply affected my sisters and me. We truly learned from the best.” Though Jack Meunier is gone, the robust humor and razor-sharp one-liners he was known for continue to live on in his only son.
While Gary’s father may no longer be with him, he remains extremely close to his sisters and mother. “I credit my mother for being the glue that held our family together, and I’m proud to say that’s still true today,” he said. “Rochelle and I live next door to each other and my mom and Suzanne live together in a house on the other side of Raintree Lake, and we make it a priority to spend quality time together. One of the Meunier family traditions is when mom and Suzanne pick us up in the van to go to breakfast, then shopping and then to lunch. Even if we’re just window shopping, it’s something we’re doing together.”
Both young and young at heart, Gary looks forward to many more exciting and fulfilling years working at Heartland Tanning, Inc. And, while he, his sisters and his mother all live around the same lake and spend time together, world travel has become one of Gary’s passions. “I like to collect Christmas tree ornaments and refrigerator magnets from all my travels,” he said. “I have one-and-a-half refrigerators completely covered, and I’m constantly brushing against them and knocking them all off, so I always have glue on hand. I also like collecting coffee mugs from popular destinations, but only if they’re unique or special. I’ve recently began collecting Starbucks mugs – so far, I have Washington, D.C., Nashville and Colorado, and I’m looking forward to picking up more in my travels.”
Life in this modern world can be hectic. It seems that we always have to be somewhere because we have to do something, often to the detriment of our families and friends. It’s good to see that Gary Meunier is someone who’s struck a balance between being a “guy on the go” and a “family man”. Perhaps Gary’s story could inspire us all to make just a little more time for those who matter most… because there’s no telling just how much that extra day, hug or smile might mean.
A 14-year industry veteran, John "Ribby" Ribner has written hundreds of
articles for IST Magazine and, as Director of Editorial Content, has also
helped guide the publication's evolution. Ribby is a graduate of Central
Michigan University's journalism program and has brought many years of newspaper reporting experience to his position of Head Writer. He is also the author of three novels, "Legacy of the Bear," "Prophecy of the Bear" and "World So Dark."
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