The shelving of Soap Bar in Westport wasn’t the end of a chapter — just a focused business shift, said Matt Bramlette, the Midtown maker behind Toilet Bombs and a variety of self-care products.
“We took the look and feel of Soap Bar and merged it with Mid Coast Modern. It was a total refresh,” explained Bramlette, who co-owns Mid Coast Modern and the Bear Soap Co. brand (which was once sold out of the now-closed Soap Bar) with his husband, Rick Leavitt.
Soap Bar announced its closure in April, moving the Bear Soap Co. brand into Bramlette and Leavitt’s local goods brick-and-mortar Mid Coast Modern — just a couple doors down on Westport Road — and further committing to wholesale opportunities through Made in KC, a curator and retailer of locally made products.
“We incorporated a dedicated space for Bear Soap Co., as well as moved our entire workspace over to the back of Mid Coast Modern,” Bramlette noted. “We also added a little apothecary section. This was a way for us to put more energy into fewer things and not be spread too thin. We spent a lot of time and effort on the remodeling, so we’re really excited for people to come by and experience it.”
The decision to close one of their shops came after a busy holiday season, Bramlette said, noting that Bear Soap Co. accepted an offer to have a space inside the Made in KC Marketplaces on the Country Club Plaza and in Lenexa.
Between operating two storefronts, the Bear Soap Co. brand, and then adding two new satellite locations, Bramlette and his team didn’t have enough time to prepare enough Bear Soap Co. inventory for what was needed throughout the holiday shopping season, he said.
“By the time [the fourth quarter of the year] hit and Christmas shopping kicked in, the amount of work was pretty overwhelming,” Bramlette recalled. “… There were a lot of opportunities to sell more products had we been able to keep up with the production of it. We just didn’t forecast how much would sell at the Made in KC locations because we’ve never been in there before.”
Click here to read Bear Soap Co.’s popular toilet bombs, which sold out during the 2021 holiday season.
With lower foot traffic in the Westport neighborhood since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it made sense to focus efforts into one, intentionally-crafted storefront and the brand’s wholesale operations, Bramlette said.
“The east side of Westport does have a lot of open shop spaces that are empty right now,” he said. “I am on a Westport community board, and we’ve discussed how we can improve the look of the strip and get more local businesses in. It all takes time, but we’re actively looking.”
None of the Bear Soap Co. products have been discontinued since the move, Bramlette said; and customers are still welcome to check out the workspace in the back of the store, similar to how customers at Soap Bar could watch and smell fresh products being made.
“That’s part of the experience that we think makes people enjoy coming to the store,” Bramlette said. “They always love to see all the ingredients, and we can explain the process of some of the things we make.”
Bramlette and his team are set to start offering make-your-own-bath-bombs classes soon, he said.
“We’ve done bath bomb classes in both Made in KC Marketplace locations, and they were really successful,” he shareed. “It’s a really fun time to either meet new people or do it with a group.”
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For those who want to catch Bear Soap Co. outside of Westport, the maker is planning a Pride pop-up Friday, June 10 at Servaes Brewing Company in Shawnee. Bear Soap Co. will also be featured at 21c Museum Hotel Kansas City Pride Marketplace later this month with the date to be announced.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.