If you’re walking down Main Street in Bisbee and smell something earthy and fragrant that reminds you of desert rain, follow your nose. There’s a good chance it will lead you to Bisbee Soap & Sundry, where you’ll find handcrafted bath and body products that not only smell good but also are good for your skin.
Amber Avery-Pierce and her husband, Mark Pierce (pictured), opened their shop in 2014. Having worked in the restaurant and bar industry for years, the couple decided it was time for something new. “It was kind of on a whim,” Avery-Pierce says. “We were burned out, and I just had this idea one day that a soap store in Bisbee would probably do well.”
The shop started out by selling soaps that were created by Avery-Pierce’s aunt in Taos, New Mexico. While they were getting their bearings, Avery-Pierce learned how to make soaps and develop her own recipes. “It was a long process,” she says. “We went into it not really knowing a lot about it, but once I felt comfortable and confident enough in our product, we started selling our own.”
Now, Avery-Pierce says she makes about 1,000 bars of soap weekly. As the shop’s only soap maker, she spends several hours a week developing recipes, choosing ingredients and creating the mixtures, a process Avery-Pierce considers a creative outlet and a way to flex her artistic muscles. Once the ingredients are mixed, they’re placed in molds, then cut and stamped the next day. After that, each bar of soap sits for four to six weeks to cure before it’s ready to be purchased.
When it comes to quality, Avery-Pierce says the biggest thing that sets her products apart is the ingredients she uses. “Commercially made products are typically made with some of the cheapest ingredients available,” she says. “Here, you get something handmade in a small batch, and those ingredients were specifically chosen for the qualities they bring to the end product.” Many of the ingredients used in the soaps are plant-based and food grade.
Some of the most popular items in the shop are based on a scent that’s familiar to desert dwellers: creosote (Larrea tridentata). “The creosote bush is what gives the rain in this region a very distinct smell,” Avery-Pierce says. “We can always tell Arizona locals or natives, because they’re always drawn to those products.”
Longtime customer Naomi Tornoe says the locally based products are what drew her to Bisbee Soap & Sundry. “The regional aspect of some of the offerings makes them stand out, such as the creosote soap from locally harvested plants and the whimsical Bisbee Blue, a nod to our Bisbee turquoise,” she says. The quality of ingredients, though, has kept her a loyal customer. “I have confidence in using anything they produce,” Tornoe says. “Since becoming a customer, I use only their soaps. In fact, I even take the mini soap bars with me when I travel.”
In addition to soaps, Bisbee Soap & Sundry sells shaving items, lotions and candles, all of which are handcrafted at the store. Most items can be purchased online as well, but Avery-Pierce recommends stopping in to the shop to smell and touch the products and feel the difference for yourself. “It’s a warm environment; it’s really welcoming,” she says. “There’s something really special about using something that you know was made by someone’s two actual hands and with care and attention.”
Bisbee Soap & Sundry
25 Main Street