By Becky Johnson The Mountaineer, Waynesville, N.C.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Entrepreneur Babs Szczepanski first introduced her soaps and lotions on the shelves of her local gift shop. She quickly grew a loyal following and realized she had something. So she quit the gift shop and threw herself headlong into the new artisan soap venture called "Green Orchid Soap Co."
A new boutique shop featuring small-batch, artisan soaps, lotions and bath products has opened in downtown Waynesville.
Green Orchid Soap Co. is the latest incarnation for downtown Waynesville entrepreneur, Babs Szczepanski. After years in retail, she began experimenting with botanical recipes for hand-crafted bath-and-body products and discovered her second calling.
"It's that feeling of 'Even on your worst day, we've got you,' and on your best day, we're cheering for you," Szczepanski said.
Green Orchid features a scent library of more than 18 custom recipes that can be folded into body butter, lotion, mists, bar soaps, body wash, scrubs, candles and more. The line uses pure botanical ingredients to achieve a clean scent with a light, silky texture -- free from heavy perfumes or greasy additives.
Szczepanski first introduced her soaps and lotions on the shelves of her Main Street gift shop and craft gallery Goblin Lane. She quickly cultivated a loyal following and realized she was on to something.
So she quit Goblin Lane and threw herself headlong into the new venture, culminating with the opening of a stand-alone store front on Wall Street last month.
Some concoctions smell good enough to eat, like the Honey Mandarin, Green Tea or Lemon Cream scents. The Red Cocoa scent reads like a dessert menu -- with notes of cinnamon, Madagascar vanilla, marshmallows and vanilla bourbon.
Green Orchid is the latest pioneer to join the slow but steady transformation of Wall Street, which has long struggled in Main Street's shadow. Wall Street was once little more than a place to stick dumpsters and hang fire escapes, with any would-be charm obscured behind a tangle of utility lines and overgrown vines crawling up the backsides of buildings.
But Wall Street's potentially is gradually being realized with the addition of new store fronts. Carrie Keith, owner of Twigs and Leaves Gallery, said the activity on Wall Street is a plus for downtown given the concentration of public parking along it.
"Because people park back here, this is their first impression," said Keith, who stopped in to Green Orchid on opening day to show her support.
Carol Richards, a fellow merchant and owner of Ellie's Fine Resale, said Green Orchid is an excellent addition to the downtown community.
"I think the diversity of this shopping area is amazing. The more we expand, the better it is for everyone," said Richards.
Szczepanski believes it's important for downtown shops not to duplicate each other, and saw Green Orchid as a unique niche to branch out.
"I think the shopper coming down Main Street needs to see different things," Szczepanski said.
In addition to her store front, Szczepanski is plying the waters of web commerce and online sales for a larger reach. She also makes it easy for locals to shop online and pick up their purchase without even getting out of the car.
"Just pull up and honk your horn," Szczepanski said.
Buying a scent without smelling it in person can be a leap of faith, but sample packs make it possible to experiment with scents before settling on a favorite.
Nonetheless, perusing the tasty scents -- like the not-to-be-missed Pink Peonies -- while meeting the maker behind them is part of appeal when stopping into Green Orchid.
"There is a real craving for customer service even among the younger generation," Szczepanski said. "We've lost touch with that as a society, but I think these little specialty shops offer that."