Foster's Finest: The Best a Beard Can Get

Two beards, two like minds, each with their own expertise, resulted in a Miles City product line called Foster’s Finest.

Miles City barber Kile McQuirk Sr. of Top Kut Barbershop and pharmacist Mike Etchemendy of Big Sky Pharmacy put their minds together. And after many months and about 100 attempts, they came up with Foster’s Finest beard oil and beard butter, grooming products that McQuirk says are the best in the nation.

He bases that on having tried most of them out there and after spending hundreds of dollars buying them. He said he wasn’t totally happy with any of them.

“I either gave them away or threw them away. … We hit the jackpot. We have probably the best beard product in the nation, because I’ve used everything,” McQuirk said.

McQuirk said Etchemendy started coming in for shaves and beard trims and McQuirk was complaining about the products. He couldn’t find what he wanted.

Etchemendy talked of his love of the pharmaceutical science of compounding and told of an old compounding formula book that Foster Drugs used with formulas for tooth paste, shaving cream, lotions, turpentine, rose water and more. (None of those formulas were used.)

Etchemendy makes some of the prescriptions that come through the pharmacy and has tried making other products.

At that moment they put their talents together. 

“I’m a chemistry geek so it’s fun. I finally get to use what I learned in college,” Etchemendy said. “He’s the artist. I’m the chemist.”

Big Sky Pharmacy was originally Foster Drugs, which started in 1902 and did business for about 80 years, when the name was changed to Big Sky Pharmacy. In the basement is the old compounding lab, where Etchemendy started working on the beard oil and butter.

 

Development

The first day Etchemendy made up 10 formulas. Over the next six months and possibly 100 tries later they found the right combination. 

McQuirk would try the products out on his customers to see what they thought, then McQuirk would explain to Etchemendy where it fell short and Etchemendy would just tweak it.

“I knew how I wanted it to work and he put the science behind it,” McQuirk said.

McQuirk wanted a product that would soften, condition, and moisturize the second you put it on. He wanted men to notice the difference immediately.

In December 2015, McQuirk was finally satisfied. It smelled right. The oils were right. The butter was the consistency he wanted and it did what he wanted it to do.

“Then the fragrance we came up with was a mistake!” he said.

He had trouble reproducing it and finally realized that there was some remnant of a previous attempt in a beaker he used. It took several days to figure out but once he had the formula right “we just ran with it. The fragrance is the backbone,” Etchemendy said.

The response has been good. “Everyone likes it,” Etchemendy said.

The products McQuick had been using had four to six oils in them but he wanted more. Foster’s Finest has 13.

The Moroccan argan oil is a carrier oil and the most expensive ingredient in the formula.

Etchemendy said it’s the ingredient that “made the most difference” due to its softening properties, he said.

One ingredient they wanted to use was coconut butter, but after many tries “no one liked the feel of it,” he said.

Etchemendy is passionate about creating the products.

McQuirk is passionate about the end result and marketing the product. He designed packaging, labels and logos. 

Together they complement each other perfectly and when they get together, the enthusiasm is contagious.

Two hair gels (mild-to-medium hold and medium-to-hard hold), pomade and mustache wax are “very close” to hitting the market, Etchemendy said.

Etchemendy said the first hair gel he made he loved. 

“I won’t use anything else,” he said after 30 years of using hair gels.

Next they are going to come up with shampoos, conditioners and body wash.

“We want to do the whole line,” he said.

 

Marketing

While the products are available at the barbershop and pharmacy now, soon they will be available online.

McQuirk said he is working on a distribution deal. 

“It will always be made in Miles City,” he stressed. 

Etchemendy said he’ll keep making it on his own as long as he can. The hardest part is finding the time to make it. 

It takes a half hour to make 60 bottles of the oils and the butter takes 1-1/2 to 2 hours to make the 40 butter units.

With the butter “there is the melting and combining that you can’t rush,” he explained.

The products are considered cosmetics, for which licensing is not required, but they are working with the FDA.  They have formed a limited liability company (LLC). 

Etchemendy said the Outlaw Baseball players talked him into growing a beard, but it caused the skin underneath to get itchy and dry.

“If not for the beard oil, the beard would be gone,” he said.

Not only did it help his skin but his beard was much softer, which his wife Jamie likes, he said.

“Now I can’t get rid of the beard because I sell beard products,” he laughed.

“Like my dad always said, ‘If you sell Chryslers you can’t drive a Ford,’” he said.