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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Merrimac Stephens Dillon, Inventor, CEO and Owner of The Pillow Bar Our Coverage Sponsored by Maine Woolens

Merrimac Stephens Dillon

Maine Woolens is a weaver of blanket and throws located in Brunswick, Maine. We work primarily with natural fibers, like cottons and worsted wools and are committed to using renewable natural fibers from American growers whenever possible. We do piece dyeing and package dyeing in house and the combined experience of our excellent employees exceeds 300 years. Our wool and cotton blankets and throws are 100 percent machine washable, soft and luxurious to the touch, cozy warm and comfortably light. We have many styles to choose from. Our clients are very positive about our products and happy to support a Made in Maine, USA company. Jo Miller is a Mover and Shaker:

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In 2007, Merrimac Dillon began working on the concept of The Pillow Bar, with the intention of providing herself and others with custom-made down-filled pillows. Having struggled to find her own “perfect pillow”, she was seeking to provide consumers with a unique luxury product that also offered immediate gratification and personalization. Her goal is to change the way consumers purchase pillows. No longer someone else’s idea of “soft, medium or hard”, but purchased by the sleep style and size of the purchaser. Working with various engineers, designers, chiropractors and neurosurgeons, over the course of 14 months, The Pillow Bar came to fruition and was introduced onto the market in January of 2008 and have now hold 4 patents on the Pillow Bar machine and process as well as seven trademarks.

Her experience in introducing new retail concepts is not new. Merrimac co-founded The Curtain Exchange franchise in 1997, where for the first time, consumers could buy high-end ready made designer curtains. Again, instant gratification with a luxury product that is personal to the consumer’s desires was her goal. After several years and a dozen franchise stores in operation, she sold the concept to her partner who continues the successful franchise today with more than 30 retail locations. (

In the early 1980’s, Merrimac began her career in her native city of New Orleans in hotel marketing and catering sales. Her first positions were with the Brennan family at Commander’s Palace and the multi-unit boutique hotel company, Century Management Corporation. Shortly after completing EMBA classes at Tulane University, Merrimac moved to Dallas to join the Trammell Crow Company as Director of Public Relations for The Dallas Apparel Mart where she remained for nearly 3 years. During that time, they established the Dallas Fashion Awards and the Guest Designer programs, which continue today.

In 1986, she was vice president of GO MAGAZINES, a New Orleans-based visitor publication, where she assisted in the national expansion effort and the eventual sale of the magazine. After the sale, Merrimac moved to New York City and became the public relations and marketing director for Doral Hotel and Resorts overseeing the marketing for 3200 hotel rooms and nine restaurants. During that time, she assisted in the planning, opening and marketing of two new hotel projects and four restaurants.

During this time in New York, Merrimac was successful in publishing two books: The 50+ Travel Guide (Doubleday/St.Martin’s Press) and The Real Life Guide for the Second Time Bride (Bounty Press). Moving to Germany with her husband, she became fluent in the German language and then began a consulting firm to assist U.S.-based firms with their European marketing and special events efforts. 

Returning to New Orleans in 1993, Merrimac joined a local multi-unit franchisee as vice president of development, where she oversaw the marketing and development efforts for a four state 30-unit franchisee. She then transitioned into the Advertising Agency business where she became a partner in Keating Magee Advertising and Public Relations and oversaw the daily operations of a AAAA (4A’s) $30 million dollar agency. During this time, she and her partner began building The Curtain Exchange Franchise Company where she eventually moved full time until such time she sold out with more than 12 franchises established. In 1999, Merrimac and her husband, Richard and daughter, Caroline returned to Dallas and currently reside in Preston Hollow. She currently serves as a board member for Camp John Marc (, and a volunteer for The Hockaday School and the Texas American Saddlehorse Association. We are so pleased to present Merrimac Stephens Dillon as our latest Mover and Shaker! Peachy Deegan interviewed Merrimac for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: 
What do pillows mean to you and why? 
Merrimac Stephens Dillon: A good pillow hand made to specifically match my shoulder size and sleep style means I will surely enjoy a restful nights sleep and my body and mind will thank me each day by being at their very peak performance level.

What were your favorite pillows growing up and do you have any stories about them? 
My mother was somewhat of a linen/pillow snob and had neck issues, so we always had down filled pillows from a very young age. I learned early to appreciate the luxury of down, but also the effect a good pillow has on neck and back alignment.

What does manufacturing in America mean to you and why, and would you ever manufacture anywhere else? Why or why not? 
As we make each of our pillows one by one here in Dallas to match each order, we would never consider overseas manufacturing of our pillows, not to mention our promise to ship within 48 hours. We are all about instant gratification and quality personalization --can't get that overseas. 

Please comment on your opinion on the business climate of American manufacturing today.
Are most of your sales domestic or is your international business significant? 
We want to work with and for our fellow Americans. We don't sell overseas or market to overseas markets, so we are domestic purveyors.

Peachy is a fan of multiple pillows at once and does not remember only ever sleeping with just one. Do you have an opinion on optimal pillow arrangement and does this differ for naps as opposed to a full night's sleep? 
Having worked in the sleep clinics of Chiropractors and Neurosurgeons as we developed our concept and our products, we found that if you have one pillow that matches your specific shoulder size and your unique sleep style, you should only need one pillow. If you have GERD or other digestive issues, we found that 2 were needed to keep the patients head elevated...otherwise, one perfectly matched pillow should do the trick any time, nap or overnight.

Has Sleeping Beauty been to the pillow bar and if so what did she have to say? 
How about the Princess and the Pea?
And the tooth fairy? 
 Those are important pillows! We definitely have Cinderella, Princess and the Pea --we have very particular customers who want exactly what they want, and that is what we specialize in! Special orders, custom requests, we do it all with a smile. Prince Charming couldn't find a better gift than a Pillow Bar pillow for his Princess! 

What should everyone know about the consequences of not sleeping properly and getting quality sleep? 
Among other things, lack of sleep can result in slow mental acuity, lack of focus, crabbiness, drowsiness, and worst of all Weight Gain!!! 

How do you define quality sleep? 
For an adult 7-10 hours per night is desirable. 

What would you change about the patent process and the trademark process if you could and why? 
It took us nearly 2 years to get a patent on our Pillow Bar machine and the pillow making process; it was onerous and ridiculously expensive! There must be a faster and less costly method of navigating that process.

What should everyone on the East Coast and beyond know about Dallas and why?
I think this winter has thrown the spotlight on Urban areas like Dallas, as we didn't have more than 1" of snow and life is easy to navigate year round. I have lived in NYC and Europe; I truly adore Dallas and all it has to offer with the fashion, arts, the ease of life and the attitude that no one asks where you came from but what are you doing now that is interesting. I love that Texas attitude! Besides, who doesn't love to wear great boots anytime and anywhere! 

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
My father was my mentor. And although he has been deceased for 25 years, I live with his life philosophy as my life guide.  
Attitude and Integrity will give you the accomplishments you seek, but it's love and faith that make it worthwhile. 

What are you proudest of and why? 
I am incredibly proud of my family. Not only our daughter, but my mother, sisters and their spouses. We are all very close and supportive of each other. I am proud that we have that support in our lives as not everyone does. They are all the epitome of personal and business support.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
 I have been so blessed to have had so many chapters to my professional life that I have no "I wish I had" moments, but I think I would like to teach a class on entrepreneurship in my later years --I think there are a lot of tidbits I could pass along to the younger generation who think they want to start their own business.

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
The Pillow Bar has received many accolades from the media. 

What one word best describes you and why? 
Driven. I am driven to create concepts that fill a consumer need.

What do you take your sense of identity from? 
My family and my upbringing. 

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan? And Dallas? 
 My favorite place to be in Manhattan is with friends eating in Little Italy. Dallas doesn't really have great Italian food and both my husband and I miss the fabulous Italian food of NYC.
In Dallas, I love to be at home cooking with family and friends. I cook a lot and love to entertain at home.

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan? And Dallas?
My favorite store in Manhattan is probably ABC Carpet. I love the way they merchandise their store. Always fun to visit.
In Dallas, I love 4510 McKinney --it is really a world class store with a lot of unique items in both fashion and home.

If you could hire anybody who would it be and why? 
 Who wouldn't love to have Richard Branson sitting around the table with his forward-thinking ideas and his have no fear focus!

What is your favorite drink? 
I love a Brandy Milk Punch from Mr. B's Bistro in New Orleans. Nothing Better, morning, noon or night. 

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party?
Without a doubt the funniest --when we lived in Germany and I was struggling to learn and use the German language, I asked a man if he was circumcised when I meant to ask him if he was divorced!!

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan? And Dallas?
In New York, as I am always in search of good Italian, we love Il Cortile in Little Italy and who doesn't love Gramercy Tavern. In Dallas, we love Parigi. But my favorite food in all the world is in my home town of New Orleans --the list can go on and on of where I want to eat when I am home - and we normally have 5 meals a day! 

What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature? 
 Like many children, I wanted to be Eloise. But I have a book written in the 70's or so by Stephen Birmingham about Life at The Dakota and it is a history of NYC at that time and the people who lived in the Dakota apartment building. I have read it several times and look forward to reading it again. As an adult, it is my favorite NYC book. 
And Dallas? 
I have a book about the history of the great families of Texas --I love the way Texas families worked together and pooled their wealth and their thoughts to create what we enjoy today. 

Who would you like to be for a day and why?
I'm pretty happy with who I am, so I don't really long to be someone else. But it might be fun to be the Barefoot Contessa for a day or so!

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why?
 I don't really want anything named after me anywhere. When I donate or contribute to something, I do so anonymously. 

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience? 
 If you are asking about what I liked to "do" athletically in NYC, we used to bike all over the city before the bike lanes --My husband and I would ride from midtown to SOHO and have lunch and ride home --we loved seeing the city from a bike.
If you mean watching Athletics, I love basketball so I used to go to basketball games as often as possible. I also loved Westminster Dog Show. 
And Dallas? 
 In Dallas we continue to enjoy biking on the Katy Trail and riding to lunch. We are avid fans of the SMU basketball team and never miss a game. 

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else? 
 We loved getting on the train and going to West Point for the football games.
And Dallas? 
Only in Dallas can you be on a ranch and on a horse just an hour from home --or you can be on a lake and fishing or you can 
be anywhere in the country on a non-stop flight from DFW.

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why?
My father --for obvious reasons. 

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience? 
My best Manhattan art experience is anytime I have a full weekend to explore the museums and galleries.
And Dallas?
In Dallas, we also have great museums and galleries, so we enjoy a weekend dedicated to overindulging in all the new exhibits. The Nasher sculpture garden is a favorite here in Dallas.

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
I hope that I do something everyday to give back to the next generation, to assist someone less fortunate or to help someone pursue their dream.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated in Manhattan?
Overrated --Rockefeller skating rink
Underrated --a walk through Central Park on a Spring Day
And Dallas?
Overrated --Cowboy hats
Underrated --The depth of patriotism and The Texas "can do" attitude

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?
Culinary Kings & Queens -I like to learn about restaurant owners and details of their menus and restaurant lives.

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
It still gives me incredible joy when someone calls us to say that they now sleep pain free or through the night because of our pillows. It is so rewarding, one pillow and one bedroom at a time.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?

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