CAPE MAY — Canyon Allen can trace his soap-making and retail business, A Place on Earth, to a book at the Cape May Court House library.
“I got a book on how your grandmother made soap in the old days — how they would gather their fats from cooking the whole year and make one big batch. I thought that was really cool. But instead of using animal fats, I used olive oil instead, which is really good for the skin,” said Allen, who owns the business with his mother, Rose Allen.
Allen made his first batch of soap at his kitchen counter and gave it out to friends. And it turned out to be pretty good, he said.
A Place on Earth, on the Washington Street Mall in Cape May, makes almost 1,000 pounds of soap a week.
The shop exudes an aroma of dozens of scented soap products, with names from Cuban Mojito to Endless Summer.
Perfecting the art of soap making is one matter. Allen said he spent almost a year coming up with the right recipe for body butter.
But experimenting with combinations of scents — and then coming up with names for them — is another.
A soap called Sleigh Ride carries a pine and cedar scent. It was created as a seasonal variety, but was too popular to discontinue in the summer. So, the same soap is called Wildwoods for the rest of the year.
If a nice-smelling soap does not sell, it might need a new name, Canyon Allen said.
“Sometimes we have a name, and it kind of just doesn’t work. Like instead of fig, we’ll do Mediterranean fig. Or we’ll mix a few scents together and do a cranberry fig,” he said.
The Allens say the shop has a loyal following at its store in Cape May and over the Internet.
Villas, Lower Township, resident Sue Martin has been a customer for several years and stopped by on a recent weekday morning to pick up some soap.
“This is the best stuff. It’s great for your skin,” she said.
A Place on Earth started out selling wholesale, setting up at trade shows and appearing on television sales network QVC.
“We used to do wholesale, but we got so busy here at the store and on the Internet,” Rose Allen said.
Both Allens have long histories in retail. Rose Allen had owned gift shops in Ocean City and Atlantic City; her son owned several businesses in the area and in Florida.
But soap making and selling has its own allure — creativity, experimentation and, of course, the aroma.
“I started out doing it as something to do. It was nice and it evolved into a business,” he said. “We both had been in retail before, so we had that down. A lot of other stores will call and order something. We actually make it here, so it is unique. You can’t get it somewhere else.”
Soaps have names such as Snickerdoodle, Death by Chocolate, Fall Harvest and Ginger Fish, which uses ginger, lime and lemon scents.
But the shop itself has its own aroma involving all those smells.
Allen said of his mother: “She says the bank tellers say, ‘We love the way your money smells.’”
Contact Brian Ianieri: