Iowa City woman sells suds

BY KATIE HEINE | JUNE 14, 2011 7:20 AM

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Kristin Kromray hasn’t bought a bar of soap in five years.

But because the 28-year-old can make her own at home, it would be silly to spend the money.

Kromray took up making soap in 2006, and today, her natural soap line, SpiralTreeSoap, is sold locally and online.

“You start making it, and then all of a sudden you have a bunch of soap,” the blond University of Iowa alumna said.

After taking the “traditional route” and selling her soap at craft shows in the early years, Kromray said she realized the venue wasn’t for her.

She switched gears in 2007 and tried the Iowa City Farmers’ Market, where she still sells today.

“It’s a great place,” said Kromray. “It’s like a mini-community and such a special place in our town.”

As a self-proclaimed “crafter,” she said she also enjoys baking, embroidering, and crocheting. She finds making soap equally as pleasing, and she said creating novel scents with essential oils is an adventure.

The Ottumwa native named her line “SpiralTree” because she likes the idea of the “unending energy” of a spiral and the “symbolism” of a tree, she said.

She also expanded her line to Etsy.com, an online store specializing in handmade and vintage products.

“It’s a good outlet to reach out to people who have been gifted the soaps but aren’t from the area,” she said.

Three years ago, Kromray approached White Rabbit, 109 S. Linn St., an eclectic shop filled with unique and handmade items, as a means of allowing her products to be readily available year-round.

The “do-it-yourself” atmosphere of White Rabbit intrigued her, she said.

And the scented soaps — which come in a variety of aromas such as Lavender Fields and Tea Tree Lemon — continue to be a hit.

“It’s like a staple,” said Emily Parker, a White Rabbit sales associate.

Many customers come in during the Farmers’ Market off-season looking for SpiralTree soaps after discovering the product at the market, she said.

Parker, who has worked at White Rabbit for almost three years, said the establishment is accommodating to locals because “creative” people tend to “support one another,” she said.

And Kromray’s “passion” and “responsibility” toward her business make for a good product, Parker said.

“There are ladies who just stand there and smell them forever,” she said. “People love to come in and pick their favorite scents.”

For the past year, Kromray has worked at the Senior Center, 28 S. Linn St., as an operations assistant. One of Kromray’s coworkers, Josh Ecklow, said he was unaware of Kromray’s soap, though he saw her at last weekend’s Farmers’ Market.

“I wasn’t able to talk to her,” he said. “But I wondered what she was doing.”

Kromray will be at the market for weekends to come, and she continues to experiment with new scents to keep her business fresh and her clients surprised.

“It’s fun to be creative and create something new,” she said.

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