Jeff Lovett says when it came time to open a brick-and-mortar store for Lovett Sundries and its line of hand-crafted apothecary and cleaning products, there was only one location that made sense to him and co-owner Marit Aagaard: Wilkinsburg.
“We live in Wilkinsburg and so we have a complex understanding of what Wilkinsburg is about,” Lovett says. “It’s seeing renewal, and some signs of growth. Existing businesses are putting a lot of effort into rebranding. Amazing things are happening.”
The store opens April 15, in an old barbershop on South Avenue in the heart of Willkinsburg’s historic district. “Because of the affordability of Wilkinsburg, we can do this without going into debt, and make it happen on our own terms.”
Lovett Sundries makes soap and other cleaning products from natural ingredients. Their shampoo bar is made of olive oil, coconut oil, castor oil and lye, and then cured for six weeks. The company also offers handmade home goods, prints by local artists, and a curated selection of vintage and retro housewares.
Founded last June, Lovett Sundries began selling its wares online in November. Jeff Lovett says he looks forward to being able to create a new vibe with customers in the store.
“One of the things we really like doing is talking to people face-to-face about our products, and getting to know our community of customers.” Selling soaps and shampoos is a richer experience when the customer can smell and feel the product and packaging, he adds, which is especially important for those with sensitive skin.
He adds that they’re keeping things “scalable,” including the shop’s hours, which will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday to start.
“The business community has been super supportive; everyone in the community tries to help each other out, even if it’s just bouncing ideas off each other,” Lovett says. They made sure, for instance, that their hours overlapped with Nancy’s East End Diner down the street.
With the new location, they’re shifting their focus more toward the skin and body care products, adding dry shampoo, aftershaves (including a gender-neutral pine scent), lip balms, texturizing salt spray for hair, and refining other products like hair wax and deodorants.
They’ve relied on friends and family to help with product-testing some of the new products, Lovett says. A friend who works at nearby Garden Dreams Urban Farm and Nursery tested their deodorants, for instance, and was pleased with the results. “She told us after eight hours, ‘this farmer still smells good,’” he says.
Even with all the changes afoot, Jeff Lovett says they’ll continue to make all their products from scratch, by hand. They even print their own labels and do all of the packaging, he says.
“Our company is all about real people working with real things in a real way.”