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Nick Ferraro, Published February 16 2014

Founder of Minnesota-based Aveda dies in Wisconsin

OSCEOLA, Wis. - Horst Rechelbacher, founder of Minnesota-based Aveda Corp. and a pioneer in the now-mainstream sustainable health and beauty industry, died Saturday of pancreatic cancer at his home in Osceola, Wis. He was 72.

Rechelbacher was an Austrian emigre who built one Twin Cities salon into a new-age cosmetics dynamo - Aveda Corp. - that was sold to Estee Lauder Cos. in 1997 for $300 million.

A stylist by the age of 17, Rechelbacher ended up in the Twin Cities by accident - literally. While laying over in the Twin Cities in 1965, at age 23, his car was struck by another, incapacitating him for six months. During his recuperation, Rechelbacher worked for a local stylist to pay his doctor bills, met his first wife and eventually opened his first of six salons, Horst of Austria.

In 1978, the hairdresser founded Aveda Corp. in Minneapolis, a plant-based cosmetics company that eventually numbered around 25,000 stores, salons and spas worldwide. The line expanded into hundreds of hair, skin and home products, not to mention 10 salons and teaching institutes in Minneapolis and New York.

Rechelbacher, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2011, was an outspoken critic of the environmental and personal dangers of petrochemicals, synthetic ingredients and conventional farming and manufacturing methods.

He viewed his products as a way to create awareness as well as better, safer alternatives.

In a 2005 interview, he described his business philosophy as "servicing the client with the purest, finest biological substances available."

He founded Minneapolis-based Intelligent Nutrients, aiming to create the purest beauty brand out there using some of the latest technologies in plant-cell research. The company opened its first standalone store at the Mall of America in 2012.

He turned the co-presidency of the company over to his wife, Kiran Stordalen, and daughter, Nicole Thomas, in 2012.

In addition to Stordalen and Thomas, he is survived by his son, Peter, and five grandchildren.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.