Small Bites

Ashjoi: Handcrafted Soaps Smell Good Enough to Eat

By / Photography By Daniel Perales | January 01, 2015
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In a charming Gulf Gate–area home, Joy Loos and Ashley Baker are whipping up some seriously tasty-smelling concoctions. A table is lined with bowls of oatmeal and jars of herbs. Tiny bottles of oils fill the room with mouthwatering scents like warm vanilla and fragrant orange blossom. A pallet tucked into a corner contains massive containers of oils: olive, coconut, almond, and avocado.

The evening air outside is brisk and chilled, but roaster ovens warm the cozy, makeshift room. Sheets of colorful cakes lie out to cool down on a wooden counter.

Is your mouth watering? Well, too bad. Despite the all-natural edible ingredients, these decadent treats aren’t for your mouth: they’re for your skin.

Joy Loos and Ashley Baker

Joy and Ashley are the mother-daughter duo behind Ashjoi Soaps, and for seven years they’ve been honing their recipe for success by handcrafting soaps that smell good enough to eat. They both have full-time careers (Joy is a bank manager, while Ashley runs the family cleaning business), but Thursday evenings they meet in their garage studio and spend hours making about 60 pounds of soap in a variety of scents. Popular varieties include Thieves’ Soap, Oatmeal Goat’s Milk and Honey, Rose, Peppermint, Lemongrass, Rosemary-Lavender, and Geranium-Grapefruit.

Though it’s technically a second job, it apparently doesn’t feel like work to either of them. They work together seamlessly and smoothly, finishing each other’s sentences and switching off on tasks without any discussion.

“It’s our chance to spend some quality time together, catching up on family or just working side by side and enjoying some peace and quiet,” says Joy as she whips oil together with water, lye, and sodium hydroxide into a pudding-like consistency.

“It’s relaxing,” Ashley chimes in as she kneads scented oil and natural coloring into a cooler batch of soap before putting it in a mold.

In 2007, Ashley and Joy visited the famed bath and body store Lush. They were enchanted in particular by massive blocks of soap that shoppers could carve a chunk off for themselves. Both women have always been crafty, and soon Ashley had picked up a book on soap making. She and Joy made so much soap that year that even after giving away pounds for Christmas, they still had a surplus.

In 2008 they decided to try their hand at selling their wares. Now you can find their delectable soaps at the downtown Sarasota Farmers’ Market, Brown’s Grove, and online at their Etsy shop.

Ashjoi Soaps are a labor of love. Give them a try, and you’ll be in love, too.

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