We all know that downtown is full of some amazing shops and people– but we’d like to get to know them a little better. Welcome to our new series, where we will be making our way through downtown businesses, getting to know owners, and sharing the stories behind some of downtown’s places.
In honor of their fifth anniversary, our first highlighted business is downtown’s mecca for natural, handmade bath and beauty products, Soaps and Such, which is located at 125 W. Chisholm St.
Before Soaps and Such opened its doors downtown, it began as an at-home business and hobby by Kelly Bruning, who would make soap and products for gifts. When she researched the ingredients in other body and cosmetic products she used, she discovered toxicity levels– and figured that with her background and PhD in Business & Research, she could research and find better ways to formulate products– naturally.
The business incubated originally in a small shop in the Center Building, where she brought products in made from home. After outgrowing that space, she then moved up Second Avenue next to the State Theater, a space which allowed her to provide workshops and events. A year ago (February 2017), the business moved again to its current location on Chisholm Street. Bruning says the LeFave family, who owns the building, saw and supported her vision– allowing renovations to the space which included a view-able artisan-workshop where she and staff make products and test sinks for customers to try products.
Why natural products? “What we put on our skin or inhale goes directly into our blood stream,” Bruning explained. “Many over-the-counter and trusted brands contain ingredients that have been identified by the Environmental Working Group as toxic… for me, that isn’t acceptable, and I believe people should have a choice.” From bath-bombs to aluminum-free deodorant, her products are a result of extensive research and the desire to make products better than their machine-made, mass-produced counterparts.
Take for example, bath-bombs. Most just fizz and scent (and leave a ring around the tub), but hers include moisturizing coconut oil and cocoa butter so it not only scents the water and fizzes, but moisturizes your skin. She even claims she’s addicted to her own bombs.
Education is a large component of the business. Upcoming events include making sugar scrubs, making nail polish, Essential Oils 101, Perfume with a Twist, and kids-specific events. According to Bruning, the events are a combination of learning and making, and with her background in teaching, she loves sharing her knowledge with others in a welcoming way. In addition to learning, ” it’s important to expose people and kids that they can make something with their own hands… there’s something rewarding about creating, and I want to give people in the community the opportunity to do so.”
Bruning also recently created a new blog entitled “Be your own kind of beautiful” in which she writes about hazards in the beauty industry, self-help exercises, quotes of the week, and self-image positive thinking.
Simple tweaks to ingredients and formulas allow her to create products “as natural as she can make them.” In addition to her commitment to producing safe, natural products, Bruning’s passion is is also to offer people in rural towns like Alpena choices to make natural artisan-made products AND have a resource person to answer questions.
“I love being part of downtown and my passion is educating others on bath and beauty products as well as to be part of creation as people “you make” and get that artisan glow about them,” Bruning said. “From the bubbles that float from my door in the summer, to the dog bowl that I put outside, to the Alpena specific products I create, to the offerings I provide, I love being part of downtown Alpena and I love the passion of delivering wholesome products and being a resource person to people of our area and around the world using the online forum.”
To celebrate their fifth anniversary, Soaps and Such will be offering specials throughout the rest of the week, including buy three get one free. for online shoppers, $10 off a $60 purchase. Simply use promo code TENBUCKS.
Don’t live in the area? Soaps and Such has an online shop that ships nation-wide! You can also register and pay for workshops online, book individual consulting. Visit the shop here.
Blog Downtown Alpena is written by Anne Gentry. What business would you like to see featured next? Drop me a line on Facebook or below.