Buff City Soap, a North Texas-based brand, expanded to four locations in Southwest Florida.
Three of them are owned by Jeff and Chris Robinson, who oversee a team of about 20 employees at three stores in North Port, at Mercato shopping center in North Naples and now in Fort Myers at 7935 Dani Drive, which opened Nov. 4 near the intersection of Colonial Boulevard and Interstate 75.
The original Cape Coral location off Cape Coral Parkway closed last year, and a new and different ownership group from the Robinsons operates one off Pine Island Road.
“It’s great real estate, and it’s great people,” Jeff Robinson said of their locations. “We love [the Fort Myers] location. Publix as an anchor tenant is huge.”
Robinson and his wife also closed their original Buff City location near downtown Naples and relocated it in November 2021 to Mercato, which he deemed a smart move.
“If you’re not a big, national brand, you’ve got to have foot traffic,” he said. “And Mercato has tons of foot traffic.”
The Robinsons’ North Port location opened in June 2022.
Research shows 90% of Buff City customers are female. Being near a Kohl’s, a Hobby Lobby and adjacent to a new Chicken Salad Chick restaurant doesn’t hurt either, they said.
All the soap they sell in each store is made in that store, calling the process saponification. The three ingredients are mixed into a mold, which must settle for four to six hours when the mixture generates heat and hardens.
After it hardens, it is cut into the soap and sits for three days prior to selling.
The brand’s growth also demonstrates how retail trends have been shifting. There are things consumers can and cannot do via ecommerce and buying items on, for example, Amazon.
One thing that can’t be done is smelling the products.
“We have guests that come in, and they’re just overwhelmed with how great it smells,” Chris Robinson said. “A lot of times, if we have a lot of foot traffic, we just prop the doors open, and people come flying in the doors. Because they’re like, ‘What smells so good?’ It smells so fragrant in here, because we make it in here.”
A bar of soap costs $8. An ongoing special on Tuesdays features four bars of soap or bath bombs for $24.
Soap-making classes also can be booked online at Buff City’s website. It’s a different type of product from the supermarket soap, the Robinsons said.
“We are all plant-based,” Chris Robinson said. “So everything in the store is made and packaged here daily. Which is awesome. Because you can actually come into the store and see people making the soap.”
Narcissist is the store’s most popular-smelling scent. The second-most popular product in the store, after the soap itself, is laundry soap, which has just three, plant-based ingredients, Chris Robinson said.
“We prepackage the most popular ones,” she said. “But any bar of soap we have in the store, we can scent your laundry soap with that.”