Don’t go into Sweet Bubble when you’re hungry — the displays might give you ideas. The store sells handmade soaps crafted to look like bakery items, including cookies, cupcakes, scones and doughnuts.
The owners have opened a new Boca Park location at 740 S. Rampart Blvd. to complement their Town Square Las Vegas store at 6569 Las Vegas Blvd. South.
“The first thing we made were the cupcakes. … (they) had the berries and the little sprinkles,” said co-owner Mary Romero, whose dream of realistic-looking soaps prompted the idea.
Don’t they get hungry when they’re making the items?
“Always,” Romero said.
It started when Susan Johnson’s brother, Bill, asked her to buy a bar of oatmeal soap while she was shopping.
“He said to look for a bar with little flakes of oatmeal,” she said. “I couldn’t find any at all, so, I thought, ‘Hmmm, I’ll make him one.’ ”
Move forward a couple of years, and she was selling the soap at craft festivals. Five years ago, Johnson, her sister, Romero, and Bill’s wife, Debbie Moyer, first opened a shop on Water Street in Henderson. They operated there for three years before moving to Town Square, where they have a 3,000-square-foot space and make the items on site. They kept adding items and now claim more than 100 types of soap.
In Boca Park, they are directly across from Kona Grill. The soaps are artfully displayed in the 600-square-foot shop, which sports a mural of a village streetfront and wood flooring.
The women had a former business called Espresso Gourmet, which sold peach cobbler and coffee at festivals and community art shows. The business did great, but venues were limited. Besides, they all had other jobs demanding their time. Still, they said it educated them on business, which came in handy when the soap idea came about.
All are known as bakers within their families, so creating soaps to look like pastries was not a stretch.
The “doughnuts” are hand-dipped in soap. The “scones” are dressed with cocoa butter. Some items look so convincing, they said children have been tempted to try to eat them.
“If you take a bite, it won’t kill you,” Johnson said. “We’ve had kids come in, and later on, we’ll discover little teethmarks on the cookies.”
Moyer said customers ask lots of questions, such as “What are the ingredients?” and “Is it natural?” One of the most common is, “Can you eat it?”
“They come in and ask for a cup of coffee, too,” Johnson said.
Customer comments often prompt an item to be added to the list, although it can take months to perfect it. Development of their Body Slush, a sugar scrub, took about six months. It’s one of their top sellers. The Boca Park store has an antique sink where patrons can try it.
Nothing they make is outsourced. Even the hand lotions are made from scratch.
Not all of their ideas came off without a hitch.
“These were a bit of a challenge, the scones,” said Romero, pointing at a display. “It took a little over a year to formulate the recipe. … If you hold it in water, it dissolves and creates mounds and mounds of bubbles. It was a challenge to come up with a recipe where it would dissolve and make bubbles and still be gentle on the skin. I found lots of recipes online, but they were all terrible. They felt lousy on the skin; they didn’t bubble; they were too harsh. We changed it little by little, trial and error, buckets and buckets of failures.”
People give them as gifts. Some want to decorate their kitchens with them. Others want to prank their friends. With items starting at $3, collecting is some people’s hobby.
Peripheral items include bath sponges and soap holders.
“We get someone every week who wants to franchise,” Moyer said.
Speaking of growing the business, the women said they are faithful watchers of “The Profit,” a CNBC show where Marcus Lemonis visits small businesses and infuses them with money to help them expand. They said they would welcome him but that they might not be accepted by the producers.
“We probably don’t argue enough to suit them,” Johnson said.
Sweet Bubble at Boca Park is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit sweetbubblesoap.com.
Contact Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2949.