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Buff City Soap store to open in Cape

February 22, 2019
By KATIE J. EGAN ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Michelle Williamson was considering opening a franchise when she retired from being a paramedic, but the long-time Cape Coral resident had a requirement. An active DIY-er, she wanted something she could be creative with.

Then Williamson found an opportunity to open a Buff City Soap store in Cape Coral.

And soon Fort Myers and Cape Coral residents will no longer have to drive to Naples to get their hands on their favorite brightly-colored soaps.

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Buff City Soap, a plant-based soap makery and retail shop, is expected to open in Cape Coral in mid-March.

The plant-based soap makery and retail shop will open its doors in Cape Coral in mid-March.

This is the first of four Buff City Soap stores the mother-daughters team plans to open and franchise, with a second Cape Coral location being planned for next year, and potential locations in Fort Myers to follow.

Buff City Soap has 14 shops open in five states with 20 additional locations in various stages of development. The other Southwest Florida location is in the heart of Downtown Naples at 304 Ninth Street North.

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Williamson and founder Brad Kellum have mutual friends who own the Naples location. Williamson helped them design the interior and stayed on for training and to help with the products.

She said she chose to open in Cape Coral first because she knows the town really well.

Buff City Soaps is unlike other soap stores because patrons can watch the soap they're purchasing being made right before their eyes.

Fact Box

To go:

What: Buff City Soap

Where: 1715 Cape Coral Parkway, Cape Coral (In the same shopping center as Lobster Lady)

Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday-Thursday; and

10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday

Information: Email

or call 239-541-2063

The name "makery" is a play on words - think bakery.

All soaps are plant-based and made with coconut, olive and palm oils. Williamson said the makery is similar to Coney Island where the saltwater taffy is made right in front of you.

"We have nothing to hide because you can come in and see everything," she said. "Even places that have products similar to ours have factories that make it. Nothing that's shipped here is already made. The only things in our storeroom are some containers and a work desk. Everything else is on the floor."

The Southern-based lifestyle brand aims to change the way people buy their everyday soap by providing plant-based alternatives. Located at 1715 Cape Coral Parkway, the new shop is owned and operated by Williamson and her two daughters, Samantha Wuthrich and Abbey Williamson.

"Buff City Soap is unlike any other brand out there," said Williamson in a news release. "With both a retail shop and manufacturer under one roof, our customers can customize soaps and see each product being handcrafted by employees in store; creating an interactive and engaging experience for customers from the moment they walk into the store to when they use their soap at home."

Williamson spent the majority of her career in a very different industry. She worked for 25 years as a battalion chief and paramedic. In fact, Kellum was Williamson's paramedic trainee. Shortly after Kellum graduated from training, Williamson responded to a paramedic call for a severely injured motor vehicle accident. It was Kellum's daughter.

"It is very full-circle as I was Brad's mentor as a paramedic and he is now my mentor in business," she said. "We've kept in touch all these years and our mutual friends opened a shop in Naples. I went to help out with the opening and knew I had to be a part of what Brad has created."

Founded in 2013, Buff City Soap began when Kellum discovered that his everyday store-bought soap was full of cow fat and other synthetic materials. Kellum, along with his girlfriend and cofounder of Buff City Soap, Jennifer Ziemianin, a registered nurse, began experimenting with a plant-based alternative in their garage.

Williamson said it only takes six seconds for substances to absorb into your skin. Chemicals like sulfates, artificial detergents and parabens can cause irritation, trigger allergies and have other unpleasant side effects.

"Putting the word cow fat on soaps would turn you off right away," Williamson said. "Ours are animal-free and made with plants."

Buff City Soap offers traditional soap bars, a men's care product line, plant-based laundry detergent, pet care products and other accessories. Customers can also customize their products. The shop will host birthday parties, bachelorette nights and other events. They've also launched a subscription box service.

Williamson's favorite product is the bar soap.

She also likes that you can put whatever scent you like in any other product.

"If you like magnolia in bar soap, we can put it in the shower oil," she said.

If you're having a bridal shower or other type of themed party, Bar City Soap can make the soap in whatever colors you want to match your special color theme.

Bar City Soap is more than a soap store, Williamson says. It's an interactive event for friends and family to enjoy. There are also kids parties where they can make bath bombs.

"I really want to stress that it's an event you can watch," Williamson said. "Come in and participate, have a class or book a party. We have nothing to hide. We will tell you every single ingredient in there and we'll customize it as much as the customer wants."

Williamson wants Buff City Soap to become a member of the Cape Coral community, like she is.

"(Buff City Soap founder) Brad wants to make sure people opening the stores believe in the product and want to be part of the community the store is in," she said. "He's pretty picky about who he chooses to run a franchise."

Thankfully for him, it didn't take much to convince Williamson. She was hooked right away.

"And it's just good for you. The products just sell themselves," she said. "When you smell them, you get hooked."

The store will open at 1715 Cape Coral Parkway, in the same shopping center as Lobster Lady.



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