Buff City Soap distributed over 10,000 product samples before their August 25 opening, and it seems Ann Arborites are well onto their scent.
“We’re doing great. People are starting to find us and it’s really starting to pick up,” general manager Kat Ramaut reports from the clean and colorful store, which replaces a Bob Evans restaurant among the Meijer outlots in Pittsfield Township.
Founded in Memphis nine years ago, the company now has about 250 “makeries,” which produce soaps and other self-care items in-house, says district manager Jerrod Riggleman. All are made without animal products.
Ramaut’s retail experience and enthusiasm for marketing helped her land the store’s top job as an outside hire. The Kansas native has been in Michigan for a decade but recently moved to Ypsilanti once this opportunity emerged. She leads a staff of about ten part-timers, mostly high school and college students who can balance production with customer service.
Though their biggest seller is a laundry soap consisting solely of coconut oil, citric acid, washing powder, and a choice of fragrance, Buff City is far from a commodity business. They’re up to about three to five “bath bomb parties” per week, where groups can learn to craft their own combinations of colors and fragrances and then take home their creations.
“People are celebrating their birthdays and celebrating just being together, and quite a few people won free bath bomb parties at the opening,” Ramaut says. “So they’ve been scheduling those and then telling their friends about it. So those are a lot of fun.”
Additionally, Riggleman notes, “People can order custom soap designs for baby showers or bachelorette parties or anniversaries or things like that.”
He invites groups interested in fundraising to schedule days in which 20 percent of store proceeds during a four-hour period are granted to the group.
Ramaut met her hiring goal in time for the holiday rush and aims to help keep her staff busy into the new year in this increasingly popular niche business. “I really enjoy the marketing aspect of it, and getting out into the community is something that I’d like to do more of.”
Buff City Soap, 3143 Ann Arbor-Saline Rd., (734) 290–7900. Sun. 11 a.m.–7 p.m., Mon.–Thurs. 10 a.m.–8 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 10 a.m.–9 p.m. annarbormi.buffcitysoap.com