Mother-daughter duo carry on tradition of soap making founded by Sharon Lombardo
BY MOLLY HAINES
Sweet Owen Editor
Sharon Lombardo's initial vision for Anna's EsSCENTials Bodycare remains intact today thanks to its new owners, Denisa Rock and Rachel Ligon.
The mother-daughter duo purchased the business, which specializes in handcrafted soap, from Lombardo in 2019.
"Anna's EsSCENTials Bodycare began over 20 years ago when (Lombardo) started making soap out of her home in Owenton to combine her interests in natural remedies and art," Rock said. "(Lombardo) named it after her grandmother, Anna, an important and influential figure in her life. The handcrafted soaps became a staple of the Owenton community. As the new owners, we strive to carry on the exact recipes created by (Lombardo) and the memory of our grandmothers. For us, the long-held traditions of soap-making and exemplifying the strength and character of our matriarchy is the heart and soul of our women-led/owned company."
Since purchasing the business, the duo has expanded to include a gallery in Key West, Florida, where Ligon, a professional photographer, resides.
Ligon's association with Anna's EsSCENTials dates back to her teenage years when she worked local farm markets for Lombardo.
"We love the soaps so much and thought it would be fun to have a soap business as a mother-daughter team," Rock added. "At the time of purchase, we were both living in Key West. Rachel had a studio there making soaps, and we were going to various local markets, which was a big hit. Patty Petzinger worked with us making soap in the Owenton studio. In the spring, we continued with the Kentucky markets. Patty has been a longtime friend of ours, as well as Sharon's, and is quite a good soap maker. Rachel now has a gallery in Key West — Key West Collective — where Anna's products and soaps are available for the locals who love it, as well as the tourists."
The business continues to thrive locally, with the duo receiving praise from the community for continuing to use Lombardo's recipes and many of the products she created.
Although Ligon had the upper hand, having worked with Lombardo, the venture proved a challenging yet rewarding experience for Rock.
"I did not realize the demanding work that is required to do the markets," Rock said. "The past two years have been a positive and fun experience for us, and we will continue to do the markets in 2022. We enjoy meeting different people at the markets from all over that are just passing through and having them purchase our products to take back home. We also love seeing and talking with our locals who stop by for frequent purchases and have made many new friends with other vendors at the markets."
Like many small-business owners, the duo has grappled with the challenges presented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, having purchased the business mere weeks before shutdowns and restrictions were put in place.
"Our first year of business was during the worst of (the pandemic) with lots of changes going on in the business world," Rock said. "We missed a lot of the markets and festivals the first year because they were canceled. On a positive note, our Healthy Hands soap was created at the beginning of the pandemic and has been a best seller. It's made with Four Thieves essential oil, known to protect against viruses and bacteria."
Owning a small business, according to Rock, is more than just making and selling soap, noting the never-ending behind-the-scenes work it takes to keep things afloat. But Rock and Ligon both agree the hard work is worth it when customers come calling for more.
"The most gratifying (part of owning a small business) has been having past customers give such positive feedback by telling us they wouldn't use anything else and meeting new customers who love our soaps just as much," Rock said. "It's also very gratifying to make a wonderful, handcrafted product to sell and have fun while doing it."
Anna's EsSCENTials Bodycare products are currently sold online at www.annas-soaps.com. Free delivery is available anywhere in Owen County. Shipping is available anywhere in the U.S. Locally, Anna's products may be purchased at the Owen County Visitor Center & Gift Shop, Elk Creek Hunt Club, and at Frankfort's Completely Kentucky. Anna's EsSCENTials Bodycare may also be found at the Owen County Farm & Craft Market beginning in May, and at the Franklin County Farmers Market beginning in April.
For more information, visit www.annas-soaps.com.