By June Allan Corrigan
Of all the human senses, the sense of smell is the one most likely to conjure up a memory or set a mood. No wonder people enjoy bringing scented soap products and candles into their homes. Who wouldn’t want to satisfy cleansing and lighting needs while breathing in their favorite scent? Four soap and/or candle stores in various parts of the country describe how they serve their customer base.
At The Bubble Bistro in Memphis, Tenn., all products are proprietary. “All of our products are hand-made from scratch right here. We do not carry any other brands, just our own exclusively,” said Owner Andrea Johnson. Hands down, she said, their top-selling soap is their Honey Cream Luxe Moisture bar. It’s made with Caribbean Rainforest honey, hemp, goat milk and shea butter. The 1,500-square-foot establishment also does a brisk business in solid shampoo bars. “There’s no liquid waste and no plastic bottle waste when you use a shampoo bar,” explained Johnson. Customers love how easy they are to use and of course, the quality of the shampoo itself – its plentiful lather, moisturizing benefits and the body it bestows.
The Bubble Bistro’s primary demographic is women age 35 and older. A woman might bring home one of their artisanal soaps and suddenly her husband, children and quite often visitors respond to it. Then it becomes a household favorite. The Bubble Bistro’s product offerings are pretty consistent but they’re always working on new natural scent formulations. “Every summer we release a Summer Jam Promotion Box and introduce anywhere from 16 to 20 scents at one time,” said Johnson, who started her business in the Virgin Islands before relocating it to Tennessee. “We have a very organic following. Our customer base started globally from tourists and we have customers from all over. Ultimately, we are targeting the customer who wants amazing luxury products at affordable prices.”
Brookfield Candle Company in Framingham, Mass., specializes in soy candles. They’re all made in-house and at last count, there was something like 247 fragrances on offer. “It’s hard to narrow it down to one best-seller. We have a lot of popular seasonal scents,” said Owner Karen Fintonis. In the fall, for example, apple and pumpkin scents are in demand. “Our best-sellers are kind of an even mix of a lot of different fragrances. Everyone’s nose is different.” Chances are the company has something to please even the most finicky customers and if they don’t, Fintonis is bound to formulate a new scent that will. “We have a lot of repeat customers who will just order the same fragrance over and over but then we have a lot of customers who like to switch it up and try new things.”
Traditionally, the bulk of Brookfield Candle Company’s sales are made in-person at farmer’s markets and craft fairs. They set up their well-planned 10-foot-by-10-foot vending space at large, often juried events which will sometimes see between 70,000-100,000 people come through. Of course, that was pre-pandemic. “Then everything was canceled so we went from 53 shows in 2019 to seven shows in 2020,” Fintonis said. Fortunately, the company has been able to concentrate on its wholesale and online business until they can begin to segue back into selling candles at in-person events.
For shoppers keen to create their own custom blended bath and body products, Bath Junkie in Carmel, Ind., is just the place. “Customers pick their products, design their own fragrance blend and then we make it exactly the way they want,” said Owner Melissa Farmer. The 1,100-square-foot establishment has about 50 products they make onsite in addition to carrying products from other sources. Of those in-house offerings, their sea salt body scrubs are their number one seller. “People love the natural ingredients we use in our scrubs plus ours is a little creamier versus some that are slightly coarsier.” Bath Junkie does not make its own bar soap and instead carries premium lines like Finchberry. The store also sells candles featuring popular offerings from Votivo and Creative Energy Candles. To find unique merchandise, Farmer typically travels to AmericasMart Atlanta and NY Now. She looks forward to resuming this practice as the pandemic wanes.
Bath Junkie caters primarily to women, although it’s a pretty wide demographic. High school and college students come in as do mothers in their 30s and 40s. “We’re very family focused. We have a lot of women who come in with their daughters,” Farmer said. If they aren’t there to shop, chances are people arrive to attend a party! Bath Junkie offers all kinds of party packages – birthday parties for children and adults, bridal or baby showers, team building, club meetings and more. Guests get a hands-on opportunity to create their own unique products and scents, not to mention tell their friends about the store. “When it’s a child’s birthday party, we almost always have at least one person in the group who wants to book their party here too when their birthday rolls around. Because they had a lot of fun!”
Laguna Candles in Laguna Beach, Calif., has developed quite a following during the 18 years it has been in business. “People just love our candles!” said Owner Shari Hendricks. They are a proprietary coconut oil wax blend with a touch of soy, hand-poured and hand-crafted on site. Known for especially rich fragrances, each scent has been designed in collaboration with a master perfumer. “We really try to use essential essences and avoid the use of synthetics.” Laguna Candles has two retail spaces in town although neither is permitting customers to enter at this time due to COVID-19. Pre-pandemic, a sample fragrance kit containing two-ounce candles was a top seller both in-store and online. The latter option has only grown in popularity because it gives customers an opportunity to smell the fragrances and enjoy the experience of burning the candle in the comfort and safety of their home.
Another characteristic that sets Laguna Candles apart is its use of artisanal vessels crafted by local artists. One particular standout is their Heirloom Candle Collection created in conjunction with local artists and master glass blowers. “Many of our customers just love art and love the combination of our candles in beautifully crafted and unique vessels.” Laguna Beach is known for its many art galleries, coves and beaches so it’s not surprising that Laguna Candles’ primary demographic is a mix of tourists, women and art lovers.