Friends find perfect formula for their Florence soapery

  • A salted caramel cupcake soap rests beside one that hasn't been named yet at Rolling Clouds Soapery in Florence. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A pair of campfire marshmallow soaps rest beside soaps called sandy shores at Rolling Clouds Soapery in Florence, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Elisabeth McNally, of Northampton, samples roll-on perfumes at Rolling Clouds Soapery in Florence, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Roll-on perfumes at Rolling Clouds Soapery. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A sampler table at the center of the store allows customers to mix and match at Rolling Clouds Soapery in Florence. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Far left, laundry butter at soapery.

  • Above, Jill Carter, left, and Rebecca Fritz, who are the co-owners of Rolling Clouds Soapery in Florence, sit beside a chalkboard that lists new soaps still on the curing racks.

  • Pumpkin spice soaps at Rolling Clouds Soapery in Florence, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jill Carter, left, and Rebecca Fritz are the co-owners of Rolling Clouds Soapery in Florence, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Spiced cranberry soaps are displayed as breast cancer awareness bars at the soapery. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Lil piggies soap at Rolling Clouds Soapery in Florence, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Bath melts at Rolling Clouds Soapery in Florence, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • At left, Shower Beer soap, which contains Fresh Pick IPA from Fort Hill Brewery in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTOS BY JERREY ROBERTS

  • Soaps called the washing dead rest beside others called sandy shores the soapery. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 10/21/2018 11:02:05 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The Pioneer Valley has many specialty shops that highlight local products. Yet Room 12 in 140 Pine St., the building that previously housed the Florence Grammar School, may very well be unique.

Rolling Clouds Soapery, as its name suggests, is dedicated to soap, of which it sells about 50 different kinds, all of which are made on-site by its two proprietors, Jill Carter and Rebecca Fritz. The pair also make and sell lip balms, perfumes, colognes, sugar scrubs, aloe lotion, laundry butter and stain sticks. Carter and Fritz are the businesses’ only workers, although family sometimes pitches in.

The origins of the business start with Carter, who has a daughter with a lot of food and skin related allergies, and she had a hard time finding safe, affordable products. As such, she began making products for her own family. She said that it took her two years to get a soap recipe that she was satisfied with.

“The magic one,” Carter said.

Around 2012 or 2013 she began to sell the soap, starting the online business Luv Bug Farm to do so. Fritz became one of Carter’s most enthusiastic customers. The two become friends at the Relay for Life, walking for the same team.

“As soon as as I tried it I was hooked,” Fritz said. “I said, ‘I’m not going back to normal soap.’”

In 2016, Carter shuttered Luv Bug Farm as a consequence of her divorce.  Fritz, however, still wanted her soap, and the friends decided to go into business together.

“Maybe we can get back into it together?” Fritz said.

A year and two months ago Fritz and Carter launched Rolling Clouds Farm to sell their products. When the pair moved into the 140 Pine St. space in July, they changed the retail shop’s name to Rolling Clouds Soapery.

“We love it, it’s such a pretty space,” said Carter.

Carter was actually in the last class to graduate from the Florence Grammar School.

“I actually went to school in this classroom,” said Carter. “It’s very nostalgic for me.”

Indeed, she said the Florence Community has been very supportive of the business.

“Florence is a great town,” she said.

Fritz said that she learned how to make soap from Carter “pretty much right away.”

“She’s a great teacher,” Fritz said.

Both owners have full-time jobs, so the store is open part-time, from 5 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The business also has a website, www.rcsoapery.com, where it sells its products. 

The women  have started to do Facebook Live videos of their soap making, and they maintain both an Instagram and Facebook account. They’re also looking to raise awareness of their physical store.

“A lot of people don’t know that we’re here,” said Carter.

Fritz works in the processing department of an insurance agency, while Carter is a medical assistant, both of which are full-time jobs. However, the women say they would like to be in the soap business full time. As it stands, the women estimate they spend 10 hours a week each making soap and other products, with the soap being made in 2- to 5-pound batches.

Fritz’s favorite soap is Worthington Skies, which has a picture of the view from her Worthington home. Carter’s, however, is a specialty bar called Mocha Latte, which has actual coffee grounds in it.

“It just makes my skin feel great,” she said.

Suit and Tie, Rainbow Sherbert, Salted Caramel and the Washing Dead are some of the other soaps they sell. Most, but not all of the soaps, have a base of olive oil, palm oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter and shea butter, along with colloidal oatmeal, kaolin clay and tussah silk.

“It’s gentle simple good ingredients,” said Carter. “Everything that’s in our bar of soap is there for a reason.”

Some of the soap is aesthetically pleasing, which has caused some customers to an express a desire not to use them.

“Don’t worry, we’ll make more,” is Carter’s response.

Some of the soaps have molded designs in them, such as cats, pumpkins, pigs and skulls, and the women always look for fun new molds.

When Fritz and Carter first began working together, they were not close friends. That, however, has definitely changed.

“We’re family now,” said Fritz.

All of the products made at Rolling Clouds Soapery are tested out by Carter and Fritz themselves.

A striking product that the women sell is their laundry butter. A tablespoon of it can clean a whole load of clothes, is suitable for use in any washing machine and Fritz, whose husband is a welder, uses it for her laundry.

“It’s heavy duty,” said Fritz.

Carter, who has three children, also uses the laundry butter, which can be dissolved in water in a spray bottle and used as a household cleaner, including for carpets.

One of the soaps is a throwback to the orange lava soap used in Carter’s uncle’s machine shop. The soap is now used at Fritz’s husband’s workplace.

“He’s a welder so, they get dirty,” said Fritz.

The soaps are lightly scented, which Carter said is important for her. They are also phthalate-free. 

“We want it to smell good but not overpowering,” said Carter.

Affordability is something that Fritz and Carter say is important for them. A normal bar of soap is $6 while a specialty bar is $8.

“And they last a long time,” said Fritz.

Smaller bars of soap range in price from 50 cents to $1, and the laundry butter is sold for $12 for a 32-ounce container. Additionally, free samples are included in all orders that are mailed out.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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