By Heidi Fallis Stone
Looking for some good clean fun? Have we got a place for you, thanks to the ingenuity and creativity of “artistes” like Dina Good. This is no soap opera — it’s the real deal.
Dina and her husband Michael recently opened a shop that specializes in the ancient art of soap making. Located in Tampa Palms, “The Soap Factory,” situated in the Shoppes at The Pointe (behind Olive Garden and Red Lobster), is a nice place to not only choose from more than 70 types of soaps, but where you also can actually take a seat at the “Soap Bar” and make your own unique “soap art” from scratch. What was a hobby for Dina has now turned into a full-time endeavor, and, with Christmas in the rear view mirror and Valentine’s Day just a few days ahead, she is learning exactly what it means to be her own boss.
“At first it was just my husband and I,” Dina says. “We signed the lease…and two weeks later we were open. We had to make all of the first batches of soap ourselves, in our garage.” Now, Michael, who has his own insurance-related business, is busy with that venture, leaving Dina to manage the Soap Factory herself.
Early on, she says, the business was aided by a deal with the discount website Groupon, which affiliates itself with both startups and established businesses. While the Groupon offer has since expired, it gave the Goods’ shop a much-needed publicity boost, as have write-ups in several publications, including the tony DuPont Registry of Tampa Bay. While the surge in traffic might well be tied to the Groupon deal (and to her recent ads in this publication), Dina is optimistic that her shop will continue to be a popular destination for all kinds of people — young and old, men, women and children — for a long time. And, thanks to the great start, she already has hired an extra employee.
A Little History
The art of soap making dates back to around the year 2800 B.C., or almost 5,000 years ago. Like many other customs of antiquity, the craft came from Mesopotamia, where the ancient Babylonians actually left instructions on ancient pottery.
Soap making begins when you mix animal or vegetable oils or fats with lye that has been dissolved in water. The resulting substance is soap. Getting to that point is where two different approaches come into play.
The “cold process” method takes up to six weeks to produce a finished product. An exact amount of sodium hydroxide (lye) is mixed in with fatty acids such as tallow, olive or vegetable oils. Once the lye is added, a process called “saponification” begins, and if all of the measurements have been accurate, the resulting soap will be mild and very much skin-friendly. Too much lye, however, and the soap can be extremely harsh on the skin.
The other, much faster method — and the one that Dina uses at the Soap Factory — is the “hot process” method. It doesn’t require the same precision and only needs to be stirred constantly as the pot full of ingredients is heated. The heating causes the ingredients to mix and become soap. Once he soap has cooled, it is available for immediate use.
All ingredients used at the Soap Factory are natural and non-toxic, since the lye, once the saponification is complete, is no longer in the soap. For a fee, singles or groups of would-be soap makers can come in, make soap from scratch, color it, decorate it, add any number of oils and scents to it and, best of all, since it is a faster method, there is no six-week wait for your custom-made soap.
There is almost no limit to the combinations of ingredients available. There are dozens of different oils and scents at the Soap Factory that can be tossed into the mix. A quick perusal of Dina’s shop reveals soaps that look so much like food that you might just scan the table for a knife and fork. There was soap with a layer of oatmeal, another soap with a list of ingredients like “lemon and sugar…just like lemonade” and many, many more. Dina says that a big seller for Valentine’s Day is the soap called “Falling in Love,” which contains “lemon peel, vanilla, musk and mandarin.” It looks like a large loaf of light pink bread with two big pink hearts embedded in the loaf. The finished product is available in loaf form or sold as “soap in slices” for $6.95 per slice.
And, make no mistake about it, “This IS art!” said Judy, one of six customers who were busy making soap while the Neighborhood News was visiting. “It is fun, too,” her friend added.
Dina’s knowledge, as well as her dry wit and care for her craft, resonate and make visiting the Soap Factory a very pleasant and worthwhile experience. She knows her stuff, and it shows.
The Soap Factory also is a great place for those who want to buy a nice gift for their special someone. It also is a great spot to have a birthday party, bridal shower, girls’ night out, and other occasions. When asked why she chose to open her shop in Tampa Palms, Dina simply explains that she lives in the community, and is part of it, and she wanted to provide a quality shop and service for the people she thinks of as her neighbors. The Happy Nails nail salon next door also helps draw people who might be interested in learning how to make specialty soaps.
The Soap Factory’s website is under construction and Dina hopes that it eventually will help the shop’s growth and development. She also plans to add select beverages and baked goods in the near future.
The Soap Factory is located at 17024 Palm Pointe Dr, in the Shoppes at the Point Plaza. The hours of operation are Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., and noon-5 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call 971-1511, or visit ShopSoapFactory.com. As Dina likes to say, “It’s soap much fun.”