Made in Michiana: The Soapy Gnome
Jenny Frech's love for handmade soaps was sparked by a friend she worked with in Fort Wayne.
“I loved it a lot but then the source dried up for me when I moved farther away,” Soapy Gnome owner and founder Jenny Frech said.
When that source dried up, Frech had to improvise.
"I started making my own about three years ago. The first batch turned out really terrible, so it was a few months before I tried again. But then once I tried it again, I was hooked,” Frech said.
Finally, she found just the right recipe.
“It’s a very expensive hobby to just do for fun, especially if you want to experiment. So my husband suggested selling it at our farmer’s market here in Goshen,” Frech said.
For Frech, and for Goshen, the soap-maker's new hobby came at just the right time.
“The soap maker that was here had just finished up her business, and there was a hole in the hand making soap industry here in Goshen,” Frech said.
Not long after that, Frech opened her own boutique on East Lincoln in downtown Goshen.
“It’s a happy place to be. People don’t come in grouchy and if they do come in grouchy they leave happy,” Frech said.
She named the store The Soapy Gnome. She says it's inspired by her love of soap making and gardening.
“A lot of them have things like Lavender Fields or something like that and that’s just not me. I’m kind of weird and quirky, so it suits me,” Frech said.
Part of what makes it a happy place, is that it's catered toward adults and kids.
“We have gnomes hidden all over the store. We have 14 gnomes, so when the kids come in, they find the gnome and then they get a little prize. It keeps them busy so moms get about ten minutes to look,” Frech said.
You could also say it's catered for those of us who are still kids at heart. Meteorologist Greg Bobos successfully found all 14 gnomes over the course of our shoot.
Those busy moms can shop for soap, along with bath salts, deodorants and other personal care items. All of Frech's products are made with all-natural ingredients.
“I use things like coconut oil, shea butter, olive oil, rice brand oil, avocado oil, so just oils that are very nice and moisturizing,” Frech said.
The soaps smell so good, our Rachel Brown couldn't resist taking a couple of bars home with her.
Frech also has a new line based on the notes and scents of beers from local breweries like Goshen Brewing Company, Michigan City's Burn em' Brewery and Elkhart's Iechyd Da.
“I take inspiration from the flavors and notes that are in their beers and make a scent that matches along with that,” Frech said.
Frech makes most of her soaps at home, but she brought at batch to the shop to show us her process. After mixing the ingredients, she pours what will later become a sudsy soap into a mold. The liquid hardens overnight.
To get the final product? Frech gave Emily Evans a shot at cutting the six-foot-long chunk into bars of soap.
Although Frech is excited about her success so far, she says new challenges keep her engaged and interested.
“I love the retail part of it and I hope to continue having the shop, but I’m also trying to grow my wholesale line,” Frech said.
Frech says she would like to expand her wholesale line to gardening centers throughout the states in the Midwest. She says she thinks her brand would be the perfect fit in gardening shops.
You can also find her soaps on Etsy or in local shops like the Purple Porch Co-op in South Bend.
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