Old-fashioned soap recipe starts business

First batches were based on a simple formula found in a grandmother’s scrapbook; they were later naturally enhanced

WOLSELEY, Sask. — Jacquie Marshall doesn’t do anything half way.

Her type-A personality led her to excellence in nursing for 25 years, and it’s now the driving force behind her success in the soap business.

Whatever the Toronto native takes on is done with 100 percent effort, and the same can be said for her husband, Rob Marshall, who is the soap maven’s right-hand man.

The semi-retired pair work seven days a week to create handmade body and cleansing products that are unique and creative and also toxin-free.

After spending 20 years in Cochrane, Alta., where Jacquie worked at the Foothills Hospital and Rob was at the Spray Lakes sawmill, the couple discovered the quiet town of Wolseley.

An income-property business led them to the rural community in 2009, where they have since bought a house and a main street building that houses Salisbury Lane Country Store.

Jacquie began dabbling in body products in 1990 when she came across an old-fashioned soap recipe in one of her grandmother’s scrapbooks. She based her first batches of soap on that simple formula, later researching ways to naturally enhance them for desirable properties like moisture, fragrance and appearance.

After suffering a serious bout of cancer in 2013, Jacquie focused her efforts on researching chemical-free ways to create her products.

“I started to investigate what’s in a lot of what we put on our skin, which is the largest organ in our body,” said the 62-year-old retired nurse, who has been cancer-free for five years.

When researching the ingredient list in mainstream bath and body products, she found what she considers to be a shocking reliance on carcinogens and petroleum-based substances. Her research abilities allowed her to develop recipes that were not only chemical-free, but that met all of her personal requirements for soap properties like cleansing, conditioning, lather, stability and bubbles.

“To this day, I still test every batch of soap before it leaves this store. If it doesn’t pass all of my tests, it goes into the garbage,” said Jacquie.

The Wolseley couple spend 80 hours a week perfecting their products and manning the downtown store that has become a hub of activity for tourists visiting Wolseley’s iconic Swinging Bridge.

Salisbury Lane stocks more than 70 handmade products. The biggest sellers are the specialty soaps, which come in rare and unusual varieties like Dragon’s Blood, Lemon Poppy Seed and Sweet Chili Orange. While some flavours are derived from desserts, like Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake and Maple Butter Cream, others are based on more abstract concepts, like Galaxy, High Society and Atlantis soaps.

Each cured soap slab is designed in the downstairs lab of the Salisbury Lane business as Jacquie mixes colours, scents and ingredients to create soaps, bath bombs and body scrubs that look good enough to eat.

Rows of essential oils line workspace shelves, as do jars of natural pigment, sparkle dust and active soap ingredients. Jacquie’s current favourite is a soap called Triple Crème, which is made from coconut oil, buttermilk and heavy whipping cream.

“This one is heaven,” she said, explaining that most commercial soaps dry out the skin because they are made from detergents with the glycerin removed.

Most of the new products that have been developed over the years have come out of requests from customers or from personal necessity. The all-natural deodorant, made with anti-bacterial tea tree oil and healing rosemary, was developed when Jacquie discovered she had cancer, and Salisbury Lane menthol rub was a product of Rob’s sore legs.

About 75 percent of Salisbury Lane sales are made online, while the remaining 25 percent in sales are in-store or wholesale.

During the Christmas season, the Marshalls expect to sell more than 400 bars or soap, which range in price from $5 to $8 each. Other popular items include lip balms, body butters, sugar scrubs, sea salts, sparkly bubble scoops and colourful bath bombs in flavours like Ocean Paradis, Sweet Kiss, Beautiful Day and Lilac.

Salisbury Lane hopes to expand its market in the new year by supplying signature soaps to bed and breakfast businesses. While soap making is a labourious process, Jacquie said it is something that has become a 24-7 passion.

“I’m soaping in my head constantly.”

For more information or to order Salisbury Lane products online, visit salisburylane.ca.

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