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Business Spotlight: Filling for Good

Soap Refill Station owners have high hopes that small changes can lead to big environmental impact

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With over 30 types of soap, Soap Refill Station LLC wants Springfield residents to know the benefits of refilling soap containers.

Co-owner Anne Dezort started her journey in the industry working at a soap refill shop in California before moving to Springfield to start her own soap shop in July 2018. Refill shops are known for selling eco-friendly homemade and store-bought brands. The products range from 6 cents an ounce to a few dollars an ounce, depending on the product, and the shop encourages customers to bring their own containers to refill to minimize plastic waste.

Dezort and her business partner, Adam McKay, felt like the Midwest was missing out on a small change that could help make the community more environmentally friendly.

Dezort had experienced firsthand the benefits of reusing plastic and refilling soap, and she wanted to take the initiative to make that happen in Springfield.

“It was kind of one of those situations where you have to be the change you want to see,” Dezort says. “We were like, I think if we want it everywhere we’re going to have to be the ones to put it somewhere.”

Product savings
With Dezort and McKay, the shop has five employees, and it offers a range of bulk soaps, from laundry to kitchen and from bathroom to shower. It also offers a variety of skin care products and body scrubs, and an oil bar in the back of the shop where employees can hand-make custom skin care products.

As a refill shop, Dezort says customers are encouraged to bring their own containers to refill, which can be any kind of container, but the shop does carry containers for purchase.

The shop also has a donation bin where customers can donate clean and ready-to-fill containers, rather than recycling them or throwing them away. Dezort says they inspect the donations before approving them for use and those guidelines are available on the business’ website.

Prices are determined by product weight. Dezort says customers can bring containers to be pre-weighed at checkout before filling. The shop also offers a 15% discount when customers buy a gallon or more of product. To put that into perspective, Dezort says one example is their own brand of unscented laundry gel. At 10 cents per ounce, and with the 15% off discount for getting a gallon or more, a customer will pay around $10.88 per gallon, whereas the average store-bought gallon laundry detergent is around $21.24 per gallon.

Dezort would not disclose her investment to open the shop, or its lease terms or revenue. Dezort says she runs the storefront, while McKay oversees the financials and the manages the company’s soap manufacturing wing operated out of a separate building a few blocks from the shop. There, 16 different products are made to sell in the store, ranging from household soap products and shower/bath soaps to skin care and body scrubs. 

Environmental trends
According to the latest report by the United Nations Environment Programme, a national environment informational and activism site, of the 7 billion tons of plastic waste generated globally, millions of tons are polluting the environment, and less than 10% is recycled. Additionally, the level of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production, use and disposal of conventional fossil fuel-based plastics is forecasted to grow to 19% of the global carbon budget by 2040.

In a study done from April 2021 to June 2022, data collected from the Mississippi River Plastic Pollution Initiative, an environment activism organization run by UNEP, show that more than 74% of the litter catalogued along the Mississippi River is plastic.

Dezort says her biggest goal for opening the shop is to inspire people to realize that small change equals a big reward, and buying clean, eco-friendly products and reducing plastic waste is just a small step.

Soap Refill’s impact is seen through neighboring businesses as roughly 20 companies in and around Springfield buy products from the store, including Kingdom Coffee and Village Meeple Board Game Cafe.

Mandi Fritz, owner of 417 Cocktails LLC, says she buys soap from the store a couple times a month.

“I literally bring my wagon with me when I go; I don’t play around,” she says, noting her shop is less than a mile away.

Fritz says she buys everything she can from the soap shop, for both 417 Cocktails and her home.

“The most unique aspect about shopping at Soap Refill that I love is that you can create custom scents at the oil bar that they will add to any of your refills,” Fritz says. “So, for my shop, I use the same wonderful scent for all the products I refill there.”

She says she recognizes the cost savings, and reuse of plastic that the shop prioritizes, and she’s all about supporting other local businesses.

“We feel encouraged and supported each time a business refills,” Dezort says. “It’s like a warm hug and a pat on the back at the same time.”

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