Words by Samantha Moats
I first encountered Left Hand Soap Company at Sloss Music & Arts Festival in Birmingham, where I met owner Soapy Jones along with her husband and business partner Erik Hanson. In our first meeting, I learned Soapy has been in business for 17 years. Her soaps began as homemade Christmas gifts and quickly developed into a thriving, community-focused business after her family and friends finished off their Christmas spoils and begged for more.
oapy settled in Tuscaloosa after attending the University of Alabama, choosing to call it home and raise her son here. Despite its reputation as a college town, Tuscaloosa is cultivating its own identity outside of that reputation, and Soapy along with Left Hand Soap Company are key players in that progress.
“The arts community here needed someone who would fight for them, and I wanted to be one of those voices,” recalls Soapy. “So much of our profit goes back into the community, to give back to the creatives around here through sponsorships or fundraisers. That’s important to us. We love Tuscaloosa, we love Alabama, and we love the Southeast. We want to see it thrive.”
One thing I quickly discovered in Tuscaloosa is the sense of comradery among local businesses, a comradery that Soapy says is invaluable to her success as a business owner. “Without it, none of us would survive. Being a business owner [in Tuscaloosa] has afforded me and others around me the opportunity to have concentrated creative energy. I get to meet with amazing people who challenge me to be even better at what I do.”
But what inspired the name Left Hand Soap Company? Soapy says, “My dear friend, who was helping me early on, and I both happened to be left-handed.”
Sinister, meaning “the impression of harmful or evil” in English, is the Latin word for left hand. Traditionally, and in many cultures today, the left hand is considered “bad” or “unclean” – which creates a redemptive irony for a company whose primary product promotes cleanliness. And every aspect of their brand is cohesive, clearly revealing the purpose behind it.
For instance, you will notice a spritely, mischievous horned mascot featured on many of their products; he happens to be a faun named Harvey. “A lot of people were skeptical at first, wondering if our mascot was a devil or demon, but to me he is more like the mythological creatures Pan or Puck. Once we gave him a name, he was much easier for others to like,” Soapy concludes with a smile.
Of course, Left Hand Soap Company offers a wide selection soap bars but has expanded into many other products including: liquid soaps, salves, balms, oils, creams, butters, and scrubs – all in a multitude of amazing scents. When I asked about her scent selecting process, Soapy emphasized her approach is entirely pragmatic: “Always think of your skin as an organ, and there is 21 feet of it. It is constantly dealing with whatever put on it, and it is important to take care of it. So whatever we choose, it’s done with a specific purpose in mind. Like with rosemary: it has a lot of different uses, it just also happens to smell amazing.”
Left Hand Soap Company opened a storefront 2 years ago. Prior to that, Soapy was handling operations from her dining room: “I didn’t realize how much we were squeezing in until we moved into the store, and sometimes it feels like we are squeezing in here.” When Heath and I visited their shop in Tuscaloosa, Soapy was not in house as she was at a market in Birmingham, but we had the pleasure of meeting Liz who had just finished restocking from another market in the area.
If you are in the Tuscaloosa area, drop by and say hello. If you won’t be passing through any time soon, fret not: Left Hand ships all over the country and internationally.
Soapy’s (current) pick: Rosemary Detox Soap Bar
Erik’s pick: Coffee Soap Bar
Liz’s pick: Lavender Sage Soap Bar
My pick: Good People Brewing Company’s Beer Soap Bar