Rommy Revson came to Northwest Arkansas in June at the urging of a friend whose daughter was attending the University of Arkansas. Revson packed a suitcase and rented the Pratt House cottage for 30 days because she needed a change of scenery from her Palm Beach estate where friends were hard to meet and golf proved not to be her game.
“I just wasn’t feeling it in Florida, my home for the past 20 years, and I thought a quick trip to Arkansas sounded like fun. I had never been here before,” Revson said.
A bad toothache landed Revson in the dentist office with just two days left on her 30-day lease of the Pratt House cottage around the end of June. A happenstance meeting with a couple of ladies in the dentist office convinced her to stay in Northwest Arkansas a little longer. They even agreed to help her find a rental.
“We began to talk while waiting to see the dentist and became fast friends. We exchanged contact information and met the next day for lunch at Crumpets in Rogers. They had a Pinnacle condo for me look at and it was just what I needed, 1,300 square-feet and two bedrooms with a small yard. So I took it,” she said.
Two days later Revson, 72, said she was back at the dentist for outpatient surgery while her new friends were moving her out of the Pratt Cottage into the Embassy Suites with a dozen white roses in tow – her favorite flower. About a week later they helped her move into the condo rental and furnish it.
“In just a short time I have met so many friends, I have purchased a horse and it’s housed at Horses for Healing and I get to go out a couple of times a week and actually groom the horse myself, something I never got to do with the horses I had years ago. I could ride them but then I had to immediately turn them over to the groomer or trainer,” Revson said. “I paid $2,500 for this horse and I get to share her with children which makes it even better.”
Revson made a friend with a lady she met in trying on shoes in Dillards. She also befriended a lady she met in Walmart just before Thanksgiving reaching for the vanilla ice cream. She said friends just kept popping up in unlikely places which helped to confirm her decision to relocate here for the long haul.
“In Walmart this lady trying to get the ice cream out of the freezer was wearing a scrunchie that was sliding out of her hair and I commented that it wasn’t made properly. When she wanted to know I how I knew that I told her it was my invention. We just kept talking and the conversation went to food,” she said. “We exchanged information and kept talking and within a few days she and her daughter came over for dinner.”
Revson said she attended the Culinary Institute in New York and also spent some time in France and Italy studying cooking which is a passion of hers.
“I just find it so easy to meet people here. Everything has come together seamlessly for me here and that’s because it’s where I belong,” Revson added.
Revson, a singer/musician raised in New York, said she worked the night club, entertainment scene in the Big Apple as a young singer and pianist. Revson performed on stage at the Bon Soir nightclub in New York City (Greenwich Village) off and on for several years and once opened for Frank Sinatra, who was about 60 years at the time.
“Working with Don Costa and a full orchestra was an absolutely great experience. I met both of my husbands while singing on that stage,” Revson said.
Her first marriage failed after a few years, leaving her broke and a single parent at the age of 28. She lived with her parents and taught voice and piano lessons to try and make ends meet and taking night club gigs when she could do so.
“My first husband was wealthy, but I had to go back to work after the divorce,” she said.
Sometime later when performing at the Bon Soir Club she met her second husband John Revson, heir to the Revlon fortune. She married him and moved into his Bedford, Conn., estate. Within a few years, Revson said her husband lost a large part of his fortune on deals gone bad. They would eventually divorce. She had no claim to the Revlon family fortune and again tried to figure out how she was going keep her son in prep school and support herself going forward.
In the summer of 1986, Revson was house sitting in the Hamptons when she decided to try and invent something for the hair.
“I don’t know why, but I became somewhat determined to figure out an invention that used fabric instead of plastic or metal for the hair. My friends tried to get me to put that down and go with them to the beach as summer was about to end, but something told me to keep working on this hair accessory,” she said.
One night when she was walking upstairs to bed, wearing elastic pants Revson said she thought about the elastic band in the waist and how it puckered and that was a breakthrough for the design.
“I had been trying to use elastic and ribbons but then it dawned on me that I needed to use fabric. I didn’t sew, nor did I have a sewing machine. I went into South Hampton and bought some fabric and found a $50 used sewing machine in a shop. That was a pretty big purchase for me on a house sitter budget, but I bought it and took it home,” Revson said.
About two weeks later after conquering the threading of the needle and bobbin, Revson said she finally had a prototype.
“I don’t know why I used navy blue thread, but I did and the first scrunchie was black and gold. The ugly prototype and the sewing machine are both in the Smithsonian (Museum) today,” Revson said.
She named the hair accessory “scunchie” after her dog, who she said kept barking at her when she was trying to come up with a name for the item. For commercial purposes the named was changed to “Scrunchie.”
While Revson said she knew might have something, selling into retail was a different matter. She took the prototype to garment maker Glen Tompkins, who she knew in New York City. He returned with a display of colorful scrunchies mounted on a board. Revson took the board and tried to sell the product into retail. She also took time to apply for a patent, which was granted in September 1987.
Sometime later she met with Boris Kliot owner of Riviera Trading Company, who sold expensive hair clips and accessories in Macy’s, Bloomingdales and other upscale retailers at the time.
“He laughed at my scunchi and said women would not wear it. I asked him to sign a piece of paper that he would not try and copy the design later. He signed it. A few years later he did copy it and I sued him,” Revson said.
Court records indicate Riviera had to pay Revson a $2.4 million settlement in the early 1990s. Revson said she couldn’t get any retailers to buy the product in 1987, but within 2 years she was seeing them all over Manhattan in every corner shop as well as Fifth Avenue.
“I found a lawyer to write an opinion on the validity of my patent which cost me $7,000. I didn’t have the money to pay them so I talked them into suing on my behalf for patent infringement and splitting the settlement with me. We worked together for five years suing KMart, Walmart, Target and several manufacturers who were making scrunchies,” she said.
Revson said she sold licenses to companies who wanted to continue to make the products. At their peak scrunchie sales in the U.S. totaled around $100 million annually. She never manufactured the items. She did sell a large license to Scunci International who had the largest share of the product bearing the name Scunci. Conair bought the Scunci brand for $250 million in 2005, according to corporate records.
NO FLORIDA RETIREMENT
Revson and her attorneys parted ways over fees several years ago and Revson decided to retire in Florida.
She bought a large home in Wellington, near Palm Springs about 20 years ago because it was a hot equestrian destination. Her love for horses dated back to her younger days when she had enjoyed riding during both of her marriages where she had access to expensive steeds. Her Wellington neighbors included Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg, who had homes and horses there. Revson sold the large estate in 2012, according to real estate records.
Revson said she downsized to a smaller 3,700-square-foot residence near Palm Beach in 2012 with plans to take up golf. But after a few lessons Revson realized playing golf was not her idea of retirement fun.
Since moving to Arkansas Revson said she has listed her Florida home for sale, though a deal has not yet been finalized.
“I recently have signed papers to sell my Florida home and I do have an art collection that must get moved here. I don’t have room for it in this small rental, so I am thinking that I may try and donate it to Crystal Bridges or another local gallery so I can still enjoy seeing it whenever I want,” Revson said.
Revson said if a fortune teller would have told her she would end up living in Rogers, Ark., in a 1,300 square-foot rental she would have never believed it.
“It’s not what it I thought I would ever want, that was until I came here,” she said.