Like freshly poured wax, the latest product from Crumble Co. founder Brandon Love has cured in Kansas City — scented this time with collaboration as the company melts into a merger with Alchemy Bath Co., he explained.
“We came to them and were like, ‘Hey, can we order bath bombs from you?’ … We were just going to wholesale them,” Love explained of his initial attraction to Alchemy, which launched in 2016. “[In our initial meeting] I was like, ‘Also I’m interested in buying a company … and if you want to sell a portion to me, that would totally rock.”
Bath products have long been a passion for Love, who launched Crumble Co. — a home fragrance company and social enterprise — from his apartment in 2015.
However, establishing Crumble as a solid player in the bath and body space was more problematic than he’d initially imagined, Love said of his path to becoming co-owner of Alchemy.
“We had been struggling a lot … because it’s like opening up a whole second company within your company and you have to hire a whole [different] team, and you have to have figure out different logistics and it just really stressed me out,” Love explained, highlighting the year he spent trying to develop recipes and processes that could make a line of Crumble bath and body products work beyond limited run sales.
“It was just tough,” Love recalled.
Just the right mix, Love approached Michelle Bolser, Alchemy founder, at a time when she was taking a hard look at the company’s future.
“At first it was kind of a knee-jerk, defensive momma [reaction]. ‘No, it’s mine,’” Bolser joked. “Then the more I thought about it … I was starting to get relieved about something I didn’t even realize [was there]. It was like a weight was coming up.”
Bolser and her team had been running Alchemy out of a storefront in Oak Park Mall, which presented a unique set of challenges for the company.
“I [was] like, ‘Huh… I could close this store,’ because it’s really stressful having a shop up there. It’s like 80 hours a week of payroll, you know? I would cover most of those hours and I’m just desperately trying to keep my store full,” Bolser said, detailing the way the demands of traditional retail sales were hurting the overall growth of Alchemy.
“I wasn’t really able to build supply for online. I wasn’t able to dedicate those resources and that time and energy into growing my business,” she said. “I was just trying to survive.”
A visit to Crumble Co.’s outlet store and creation space in Bonner Springs sealed the deal for Bolser, much to the delight of Love, the new business partners recalled.
“He didn’t even tell me until I got here that he’s been at play with [bath products] for a year,” Bolser laughed. “Then he has like every ingredient I’ve ever wanted to play with and every mold that I’ve ever wanted to buy … I was a kid in a candy shop.”
As Crumble and Alchemy navigate their new normal, Love envisions a strong future for the brands with shared retail spaces downtown and additional brand siblings — such as the newly launched, Stubble Co., a bath line “for the fun man.”
“We’re serving a colorful, fun audience … we’re going to be doing projects. They’re going to have a huge shelf section here in the outlet store, [and hopefully] in the pilot store downtown,” Love said of the companies’ shared trajectory.