116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — A fast-growing brand of handmade bath products is lathering up in Cedar Rapids ahead of a planned expansion across Iowa.
Buff City Soap, which makes all its plant-based soap products entirely within the retail locations from which they’re sold, opened a new franchise at 2300 Edgewood Rd. SW, Suite G, on Sept. 30.
The opening is part of the brand’s “continued expansion into new markets throughout the country,” according to a news release from Buff City Soap.
With a substantial population and appropriate demographics, the franchise’s operating partner, Chris Meyers, said Cedar Rapids is “such a good market for retailers.”
Buff City Soap’s Cedar Rapids location is the fourth in Iowa, and the first Iowa location outside central Iowa. The chain has 125 stores in 22 other states and was ranked number 39 in Entrepreneur’s Top 100 New Franchises.
Meyers has opened all the Iowa stores so far — in Johnston, Waukee, Ankeny and Cedar Rapids. In the coming months, he plans to start venues in Cedar Falls, Sioux City, Dubuque, the Quad Cities, Coralville and Ames.
The Johnston location, his first store, opened in November 2020. By the end of next month, Meyers will have debuted seven Buff City Soap stores.
And by Christmas, he estimated the brand will near 200 franchise stores nationally.
Each Buff City Soap store offers more than 30 different or customizable scents in soap bars, bath bombs, foaming hand soap, lotion and laundry soap — all crafted by local artisans at what the brand has coined “soap makeries.”
The soap-making area takes up about a third of the retail store’s footprint. Customers can buy from the shelves, or customize their products with a specific scent profile.
“Everything in the store is made in the store,” Meyers said, bringing a more tailored definition to buying local. “You’re able to watch the products made daily. It’s very experiential.”
Buff City products are made without alcohol, harsh chemicals, detergents, dyes, animal fats and sulfates.
“In the world we live in now, ingredients are so important,” said Meyers.
In store, customers can watch bars of soap being hand cut. If they want to buy in large quantities, they can order a custom loaf — a long log with many soap bars — or a half loaf. Bath bombs also can be purchased by the batch.
Other less-common accessories such as the soap sleeve add to the appeal of soap bars for those accustomed to using shower gel — giving the function of a loofah.
All ingredients used in the products come raw to the store. For soap, a drum of natural oil is mixed with lye, starting the saponification, or conversion, process. After setting for two days, the result is cut into bars.
Laundry soaps are made with four ingredients, one of them being coconut oil as a natural fabric softener.
With transparency in the manufacturing process, Buff City Soap claims it is “disrupting the consumer-goods industry.”
“I’m sure once people start trying natural products, it’s hard to go the other direction,” Meyers said.
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