Mary Bartolotta believes in appreciating the beauty of nature.
She uses that philosophy to run Mooseberry Soap Co. LLC, which she started roughly two years ago.
The Penfield-based business makes natural soaps, shampoos, creams and scrubs. The products are made with pure essential oils, natural herbs, colorants and clays. Many of the ingredients come from the Finger Lakes region.
Bartolotta, 58, originally worked in the restaurant business and was a baker. She sees many similarities between baking foods and making organic soap. Bartolotta was not surprised when her first batch of soap came out smelling, looking and feeling delicious.
"I visualize making soap much the same way I visualize making cake," she says.
The triple citrus soap she makes, for example, looks and smells like her lemon, lime and orange cake that bears the same name.
In addition to selling items at its own location, Mooseberry's products are available at various area retail spots such as Lori's Natural Foods Center in Henrietta, Be Inspired in Pittsford and the Rochester Public Market.
The business also sells its products online. In addition, wholesale and private-label options are available.
The triple citrus and vanilla bean bars are among the most popular Mooseberry offerings, Bartolotta says. The soaps vary in price, but a bar sells for roughly $5.99.
Bartolotta began making the soap at her home. She lives in a log cabin on 16 acres in Phelps, Ontario County.
It is a place where she draws her inspiration for new offerings. Ideas also come to her in her dreams, which is how she got the idea for the popular coconut flaxseed soap.
Bartolotta moved her operation to Penfield and has space at the Technology Farm in Geneva, where the products also are sold. At the Geneva site, she collaborates with other businesses there, using their products in her soap and selling some of their wares-plus jewelry from local artisans-at her location in Monroe County.
Mooseberry employs some eight workers, including Bartolotta's granddaughter, who is one of a handful of soap makers.
The Penfield site also is home to the Mooseberry Cafe, which Bartolotta opened last fall. The eatery specializes in organic gourmet chocolates and pastries, as well as vegan and gluten-free alternatives. Patrons can order goodies such as homemade vanilla cinnamon French toast and nut butter and local handmade jam sandwiches, as well as a green energy-booster drink made with homemade wheat grass, fruits and vegetables.
Bartolotta's vision was to create a place where people could visit, sip organic coffee, eat pastries and watch the handmade soap being made and cut by viewing through two large windows that divide the cafe and soap company.
Bartolotta declines to disclose revenues, but says the business is profitable. She hopes to continue growing, adding to her beauty and food creations, while striving to use fair trade and sustainable business practices. Her products are biodegradable, cruelty free and minimally packaged. Bartolotta uses recyclable products and paper bags for soaps instead of plastic whenever possible and avoids handing out business cards, opting instead to put her contact information inked on a paper bag.
She has good company at her site on Baird Road, which also is home to other businesses run by Bartolotta's family. Her sister has a glass-blowing studio, her brother is involved in music production, and her sister-in-law runs a salon and spa.
"We view this as the Village Gate on this side of town," Bartolotta says.
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