H2O Plus skin care brand, which grew in Chicago, will end production

The company known for its ties to Disney resorts and cruises announced it will retire its products by the end of the year.

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Cindy Melk with samples of her H2O Plus skin-care line in 1992.

Cindy Melk with samples of her H2O Plus skin-care line in 1992.

Sun-Times file

H2O Plus, a line of skincare products that made a splash in the Chicago area when it launched in 1989 and expanded on the Near West Side a few years later, is ending production.

The company, which in recent years has been based in San Francisco, said on its website and on Facebook it has “made the very difficult decision to retire the brand at the end of the year.” The announcement offered no other details besides advising people they could buy the remaining supplies on Amazon.

The company used to have dozens of stores around the globe, but those closed as it shifted to outsourced manufacturing and to marketing through other retailers.

Many people were first exposed to its products at the Walt Disney resorts and cruise lines. H2O Plus was Disney’s “official sponsor” of guest room bath amenities.

On social media, users bemoaned the news. “Nooo!!! I have sensitive skin/eczema. I found this product on a Disney Cruise and fell in love with it,” one person wrote on Facebook. “What will I do?”

Another person, referencing an H2O Plus product, said: “Sea Salt is the scent of my Disney vacations! You will be missed.” A website devoted to Disney travel news called the announcement “the end of an era.”

The company did not answer messages left at its main numbers.

H2O Plus was started by Cindy Melk, using money from her father John Melk. He made a fortune from early investments in Waste Management and Blockbuster Video before video stores became obsolete. He later made fortuitous investments in Florida real estate, including the posh Fisher Island off Miami’s coast.

Cindy Melk in the 1990s set up the company’s headquarters at 845 W. Madison St., at a time when few businesses besides Oprah Winfrey’s production company were investing in the Near West Side.

The Melks sold the company to private equity in 2008. In 2011, it was sold again to a Japanese company, Pola Orbis Holdings. The Melks could not be reached for comment.

H2O Plus in 2015 announced it was leaving Chicago for San Francisco while outsourcing its manufacturing, saying at the time a move would help it expand distribution in Asia. It said then that about 50 Chicago employees would relocate.

Developer John Buck bought the old H2O Plus site and put a residential complex on it.

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