Small Enterprise Highlight: Mama Bathtub + Physique – Decaturish
By Zoe Seiler, contributor
Avondale Estates, GA – Mama Bath + Body was founded in 2004 in a small apartment in Los Angeles, while Emilie Sennebogen Bryant lived in the city for eight years and worked as a freelance worker in the film industry.
Wanting to scratch a creative itch to make homemade products, Bryant fell into body products as it was something she liked to use.
She started making lotions, scrubs, and the like to sell at local markets and festivals in Los Angeles, and started making soap when she moved to Atlanta in 2005.
She quickly realized that soap is something everyone uses and is a common denominator in self-care.
“After we added soap to the business, I felt like it really took off and where it could be a legitimate source of income,” said Bryant.
The store sells various body products such as soap, lotion, scrubs, and hand sanitizer. They also feature candles, a herb and tea bar, and a small garden area with succulents and air plants.
The business also sells supplies like soy wax for candle making and lye for soap making, said deputy general manager Madalyn Hardwick.
The name Mama Bath + Body came as a piece about Mother Earth and Mother Nature and Bryant wanted to make the brand fun and lighthearted.
“I wanted the packaging and concept to be more lighthearted and natural products just seemed so serious back then,” she said.
Bryant quit her job during the recession, which she thought was a good idea at the time, but getting the retail business up and running was slow at first. The store first opened on E College Avenue in Decatur in 2009.
Growth was slow in the early years, but that allowed Bryant to make small-scale mistakes and grow the business to the point where she was ready to run a booming business.
Mama Bath + Body eventually grew out of this space and moved to the Tudor Village in Avondale Estates in 2014. In the same year she also opened a location on the Krog Street Market.
However, 2020 changed Bryant’s plans for the business. She had hoped to open a third location, but couldn’t because of COVID-19. She also made the painful decision to close the Krog Street Market location.
“So last year has been like a big tornado trying to focus on what’s coming,” said Bryant.
The Avondale store was also temporarily closed for personal purchases from March to July 2020. Although the business could be up and running to fulfill online orders.
“It wasn’t without a struggle, but we survived, which I think speaks volumes for our customers and our place in the community,” she added. “I am very grateful for that.”
The overriding reason for the Krog location to close was because COVID-19 security in the store could not be controlled.
“We are first and foremost a wellness brand. We take this pandemic seriously, ”said Bryant. “Opening in a food hall where we had neither the clientele nor the number of people under control. It’s a tiny room. There was no way to distance. “
However, the Avondale store has several coronavirus logs.
Employees and customers are required to wear masks in the store, and Bryant has a no-nonsense policy on how to properly wear masks.
Hardwick explained that there were signs in the store to remind customers to wear masks properly over their nose and under their chin. She said they had almost no problem adhering to masks.
The biggest change, Hardwick and Bryant said, was putting the soap table behind a Plexiglas barrier in the back of the store. It used to be a self-service counter where customers could take soap off the table.
But it is now managed by staff who use tongs to fill the soap into individual bags.
Plexiglass was also installed on the tea counter and cash register.
There is also a hand sanitizer station at the entrance to the store and customers are asked to clean their hands upon entering. The store is also cleaned regularly.
The online portion of business increased during the pandemic as more people shop from home.
“In any case, most of our sales [before COVID-19] came from personal shopping, but now our online shop is pretty much what Krog was to us at the time, which has obviously been great since we closed that shop, ”said Hardwick.
Always feeling safe in the Avondale business, Hardwick has said that Bryant makes the health and safety of employees and customers a priority.
She said that while closing the Krog site was a tough decision, the employees grew closer while everyone was working in Avondale. Her favorite part of the day is interacting with her employees and customers.
“This is definitely the best job I’ve ever had,” said Hardwick. “So I don’t know that we are all employees, both in production and in the store. We all get on very well, we work very well together and, to be honest, it was great.”
Mama Bath + Body is located at 112 N Avondale Road. It is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
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