Soap company manufactures, ships from Broadway location

The downtown area of Booneville could be in the early stages of a revival.

For the second straight Thursday a business celebrated a grand opening at a South Broadway location. On June 27 it was the Stirling Soap Company, which is operated by Rod and Mandy Lovan out of 147 and 149 South Broadway.

The Lovans say there could be more to come but for now, of course, the soap factory is the focus.

Don’t let the word soap fool you.

“We’re not a traditional soap company like you’d find at craft show, we specialize in wet shaving. Traditional shaving soap,” said Rod. “You’ll build the lather with a shaving brush.”

While that’s the bread and butter, as Rod says, you can still find bath soaps, lotions, lip balm, and body butter in the store or online.

“Even our hardware, while it’s really great and we’re known for our shave brushes, the razors themselves are kind of add-on items,” said Mandy.

There are also 40 to 60 different regular scents of the shave and bath soaps and even four to 10 more specialty scents available seasonally.

“We’re a market for people who are looking for a better way to shave, or they’re tired of paying $20 for four cartridges for their razor,” said Rod.

“And they’re tired of the can foam. A lot of (customers) have irritations when they shave and they’re looking for a better experience.”

Customers are also collectors of the shave soap items, Mandy said.

“A five pack of our blades cost $1,” said Rod. “That’s how wet shaving started to become popular again. Then it started becoming this hobby for a lot of people where the collect soaps, vintage razors, brushes.”

“They enjoy shaving again,” Mandy says.

While Booneville area residents are more than welcome in the shop — a purchase during the operational hours of 8:30 to 4:30 on weekdays is sweetened with a sample body soap bar — the vast majority of the company’s business is conducted online, with products shipped globally.

“We’re carried in at least a dozen countries,” said Rod. “And we ship all over the country and all over the world. Honestly it’s the kind of business that we wouldn’t be able to do if we were just relying on local business, 99.9 percent of our business is done online.”

That’s somewhat fitting since the idea from the company name hails from Scotland.

“We actually came up with the idea for the company while we were standing on top of the William Wallace monument in Stirling, Scotland,” said Rod.

“The tree is actually a picture we took at Queen Anne’s garden at Stirling Castle. That was our favorite place when we went. It was kind of a trip of a lifetime for us,” adds Mandy.

Rather than operate the manufacturing portion of the company Rod said, the storefront allows people to “come in if they need to, and it is nice to have some local customers.”

That storefront is actually two addresses because the building is singular with a one roof, which was in need of replacement.

The Lovans moved their company to Booneville in August of 2014 from its launch point in Texas.

“I was still on active duty in the Army when we started the business (in January of 2012) and we moved here in August of 2014 to be closer to my family,” said Rod. “I grew up on the south side of Subiaco.”

Here, the Lovans worked out of a converted shop on their property on South Highway 109 but by August of last year they had outgrown the location so they purchased, and set about renovating, the former Tiffany Square and its next door neighbor, most recently a hat shop.

Today, the shop employs 15, including the Lovans and a few part time employees.

Manufacture of the product occurs in the back of the facility and and anyone who walks into the shop will encounter orders being prepared for shipping, chemicals being prepared for the manufacturing process, someone taking care of the in-house inventory, or other tasks.

There are about 100 orders prepared daily, Mandy said. In addition to a packing slip each will contain a handwritten personalized note.

The growth that caused the shop to be moved into town has continued, Rod said, to the point leaving Booneville would be almost impossible.

“We never planned to live in Booneville long term but we’re here now and we’ve grown so fast that moving back to Texas or moving to, say, northwest Arkansas, logistically it would be a nightmare,” said Rod.

“It was a nightmare moving out of town to in town,” said Mandy.

“Six miles nearly killed us,” Rod adds. “We’re here and we enjoy being here so if we are here we are going to do what we can to improve the town because frankly, there’s a lot of history here and a lot of things that can be a lot nicer if someone would put in the time and effort to clean it up.”

Consequently, since they are here, the Lovans have their eyes on several other Broadway buildings, including the old Skinner Building and the Savage Theater.

“I’d like to put a coffee roaster in there,” Rod said of the former Skinner Hardware location. “Not a coffee shop, but something to roast coffee that, like (the soaps), will be sold over the internet and to wholesalers. Something that doesn’t rely on the local populace for business, but still available to them.”

Finding funding for remodeling the building is the issue.

As for the theater, which would be after the coffee company, Rod said the preliminary idea would be the occasional new movie but also playing classical films.

“The first movie I’d want is I’d watch Cool Hand Luke, I don’t care if I’m the only one in there watching it,” said Rod.

With the name deriving in Scotland, Bravehart would also be on the screen at some point.