Missouri company chooses Lawrence to launch retail store for specialty soap business

It is flu season and we could all use more soap. (I also could use safety goggles to weather the buckets of Pine-Sol that certain members of my family dump on me. I think that is related to flu season.) Fortunately, there’s a new Lawrence business that can help.

Evening Shade Farms Soap House has opened in North Lawrence at 1320 N. Third St., which is the old house right next door to Howard Pine’s Garden Center. As you can imagine, Evening Shade doesn’t sell just ordinary soap that you can stock up on at any discount store.

Instead Evening Shade sells small-batch, handcrafted soaps, often made from fresh goat milk that comes from the company’s farm in Osceola, Mo. You may know Osceola if you know Lawrence history. It was raided by Jayhawkers in a particularly ugly period of the Bleeding Kansas era. I know it better as the place I eat copious amounts of cheese samples at the Osceola Cheese Shop on busy Highway 13 on my way to Branson. (I like my belly full of cheese when I listen to my banjo music.)

Evening Shade’s farm doesn’t have the good fortune of being located along the busy highway in Osceola, so the company was looking for a location to open its first retail store. Lawrence won out after Evening Shade owner Loudy Bousman did some in-depth investigation of the community. She worked for a season at Howard Pine’s Garden Center.

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“The energy of the community and the social structure of the community, I just loved it,” she said. “I just felt like it would really embrace who we are and what we do.”

The company does have a strong emphasis on organic, which usually hits a sweet spot in Lawrence.

“We use certified organic ingredients that are good for you and good for the planet,” Bousman said.

The part about soap that is good for the planet is often overlooked, Bousman said. She said that many chemicals used in cosmetics, including soap products, are not that great to be washed down a drain because they ultimately can end up infecting water supplies over the long run.

An aspect that is getting more awareness is what the wrong soap can do to your skin. Bousman said.

“For a long time the skin has really kind of been the forgotten organ,” Bousman said. “That’s incredible because it is the largest organ and it is the most abused. It is exposed to everything.”

Or another way Bousman puts it: Your skin is like a million mouths. It absorbs everything.

Surprisingly, maybe your skin would benefit from pig lard. Evening Shade has a brand of soap called Pine Tar soap. It is made, in part, from pig lard and tallow. In fact, that is the style of soap that got the company in business.

Bousman’s mother started the business 40 years ago after she was battling a skin condition and decided to make a batch of soap like her mother did on the farm in Evening Shade, Ark. Upon using the homemade soap, her skin condition disappeared. Bousman then started making more soap and selling it at farmers markets and other events.

Bousman took over the reins of the business seven years ago when her mother died. She has since expanded it well beyond the farmers market model. The company now has a contract to be in quite a few Whole Foods stores, and is looking for other commercial opportunities.

All the soap is made at the Evening Shade farm in Osceola. She said the company sticks with that method, in part, because it allows the company to use fresh goat milk in its products, whereas most goat soaps actually use powdered goat milk.

In total, the company has about 100 products that it sells. In addition to bar soap, it also has an active living skin care line, a facial care line, a line of vegan soaps for those who don’t want animal products, dog shampoo, and a variety of oils, including insect repellent oil. Bousman said the company even has a “tattoo serum.” I had to ask about that one. I guess it brightens up your tattoo. I thought it was serum that made you tell the truth about how you actually got the tattoo, in which case I was going to carry some with me at all times. The blackmail money would ensure I’d never have to work again.

Evening Shade has been open since just after the first of the year. It plans to have a grand opening celebration in late March.