Tri-Village News

Soap-making comes naturally for pair

Glenn Avenue Soap's natural recipes trump chemical-laden alternatives, its creators say

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RYAN M.L. YOUNG/THISWEEKNEWS
Phil and Sandra Metzler, pictured in their "soap kitchen" at their home in Grandview, are the owners of Glenn Avenue Soap Company. The couple create the soaps from scratch and sell them in stores and online.
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Phil and Sandra Metzler's living room looks more like a test kitchen than a place to unwind.

The room is filled with slow cookers and steam kettles, and the recipes they make in those appliances certainly have pleasing aromas.

But they're nothing you would want to eat.

The couple's creations include bar soap, foaming hand soap and face wash, and body and face lotion made from natural ingredients.

The Glenn Avenue Soap Company's products are sold at several central Ohio outlets and online through the Metzlers' own Etsy account.

It was a lack of satisfaction in available products and concern about the potential harm to the environment and personal health caused by the chemicals and artificial fragrances in most store-bought soaps that led Sandra Metzler to begin formulating her own soap recipes.

"Most soaps you buy at the store, they aren't truly soaps -- they're detergents," Phil Metzler said.

"The antibacterial soaps we were buying contained triclosan, a chemical that accumulates in the atmosphere," Sandra Metzler said. "I also didn't like the artificial fragrances. I found them offensive. You really don't know what ingredients they contain anyway."

As an engineer with an understanding of chemistry, "I thought, 'You can do this yourself,' " she said.

So about four years ago, working at her kitchen stove, she used trial and error to create soap recipes.

The ones that worked, she wrote down in a recipe book.

After using themselves and their children as a test market, the Metzlers started giving out the soaps as birthday and holiday gifts.

They first began selling their soaps and lotions at the Grandview Avenue Farmers Market.

"People really seemed to like them," Sandra Metzler said. "They would say, 'I've been looking for a product like this.' "

The Glenn Avenue products are soft to the skin and the variety of natural fragrances "have real aromatherapeutic benefits," she said.

The products now are sold at the Grandview Grind Coffee Shop, Clintonville Community Market, the Hills Market Downtown, Bexley Natural Foods and the Whole Foods Market on West Lane Avenue.

"We are probably going to come to a time soon when we'll have to move our operations out of our living room," Phil Metzler said.

His vision is to open a store where people could watch demonstrations of the soap-making process, he said.

Phil Metzler now works full time developing and marketing the Glenn Avenue brand. About two years ago, he left the Mettler Toledo company after the responsibilities of his position were shuffled to other positions in a reorganization of the firm.

"I'm an entrepreneur by nature," he said. "I'm excited about building up a product that my wife is involved in. I probably love working with customers the most. I really enjoy going out and doing product demonstrations."

At one recent demonstration, he said, a woman told him the scent of the peppermint and tea tree oil hand soap reminded her of her grandmother's house.

"It's fun and rewarding to get that kind of response from our customers," he said.

Sandra Metzler said she enjoys meeting and hearing from customers, too, "but I do like the creative process.

"It's fun to come up with the recipes for our products through trial and error," she said.

She continues to teach engineering at Ohio State University and work as an engineering consultant as she develops new products.

A recent addition to the bar and hand soaps, facial-care products and hand and body lotions is an herbal insect repellent.

Phil Metzler said he would like Glenn Avenue Soap Company to become "the Jeni's Ice Cream of soap," referring to Jeni Britton Bauer, who turned her ice-cream booth at the North Market into a growing chain of 16 shops.

"She started out as a small home-based operation and grew her business," he said. "She's all about natural products, family products and she cares about where her products come from and buying local. That's the model we're using."

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