How I Became "The Soap Man" Because of My Wife's Hobby
By Danny W. Harbison
Like most men, I never paid much attention to what soap I was using. I usually used whatever my wife bought for me, generally that was whichever men's scented body wash that was on sale, and I was okay with that. My wife and mother-in-law, Kimberly Harbison and Elizabeth "Butch" Nichols, were a different story. They both swore by homemade goats milk, and it was the only thing they would use for their rosacea and psoriasis. Although we lived in Kentucky, they had a supplier in Florida that they'd used for years.
And then they didn't. The supplier just went out of business. Never underestimate the determination of Appalachian womenfolk though, for once they came to accept the fact that they no longer had a steady supply of this particular beauty aid, they set out to find another supplier. But none would meet their particular standards and together the asked each other, "How hard can it be?"
From that point on, they began experimenting; first with melt-and-pour which was not really soap making in itself as much as it was soap assembling. Then they turned to making the real thing, with locally sourced goat’s milk. For weeks my mother-in-law's kitchen became a laboratory befitting the most outrageous Universal monster movie. Instead of electrical arcs of energy filling the air, videos on how to make soap played on Kindles and tablets strategically placed around the room so that they can have their instructions ready while creating their own monster.
Those first attempts were good soap as far as I was concerned. But I was still happy with my body wash, so I gave them a wide berth. To be honest here, I'm a simple man who really prefers peace and quiet, and long ago, I learned to stay away from womenfolk when they gathered for some home-making project or another. I was only called in occasionally to test a product, to give my input on scents, to tote and carry, or maybe design something on the computer. They, however, were perfecting their chemistry skills and I found myself doing more and more involved in the project.
After the passing of my father-in- law, an antique dealer and auctioneer who went by the nickname "Porky", the ladies decided that they would name their soap for him. So Porky's Washups was born and I was tasked in coming up with a logo design. Still I was blissfully ignorant of what was going on until one fateful day in late Spring.
"I talked to the Ironton City Farmer's Market and got us a space," my wife told me one evening.
Us a space?, I thought to myself. Aloud I carefully replied, "Really?"
"Yeah, we are supposed to be there at seven a.m. Friday and Saturday mornings."
So, I thought I was going to go over, quickly set up her table and then come home. Boy, was I wrong. Setting up tables soon became selling. And the sales were good. I had to admit that they had a good product, and people liked it.
It was also around this time that my lovely wife stopped buying my body wash. Now, I'm a diabetic and my skin gets really dry, especially in the wintertime so I was wary of this soap. Winter months I would usually go through a bottle of goat's milk lotion a month, and usually a bottle every two months the rest of the year. So, after the first bar of unscented soap was gone, I picked out a scent that I particularly liked (Cedar and Amber) and started using it too. What a difference! Several months went by without my having to use lotion on my skin before I realized just how good this stuff is. It's been three years now, and I still have the unused last bottle of lotion I bought back then.
As the summer heated up, I found myself selling more and more soap and making friends with not only our customers, but with the other vendors at the Farmer's Market. It got into my blood. Soon, I was designing new labels and displays and building carry boxes for our soaps. I became caught up in this magnificent obsession of the womenfolk in my family. People began to identify me as "The Soap Man", even though it was my wife and mother-in-law who created the product.
Now, it's late winter, and we're looking at our third year at the Farmer's Market and I actually find myself with a small spark of anticipation in my soul. My wife and mother-in-law have developed new scents, new processes, and new products and I look forward to the opening of the Market. Porky's Washups continues to snowball around me, but I'm enjoying the ride. We now have customers ranging from West Virginia to Florida, and it's still growing. We've done demonstrations and shows ranging from a Harry Potter themed festival to a home-craft show in Christmas, Florida.
If you happen to be in the West Virginia/Kentucky/Ohio tri-state area, stop by and check us out. In the summer we're in the Ironton, Ohio Farmers Market, but we also have it year round in our antique shop, White Eagle Antiques and Collectibles in Russell, Kentucky. We're also online at Porky's Washups on Facebook.com with close to 20 scents available.
Check us out.