Reprinted from: THE GLEN ARBOR SUN-June 2006
Cookie Thatcher prefers to think of her blends of lavender soaps as “flavors,” and that makes her the new chemist in town. At her new shop, Bay Lavenders, next to Becky Thatcher Designs on Lake Street in Glen Arbor, she uses only essential oils, free of manmade perfumes, and mixes them with honey, herbs, locally-grown spices and a few secrets to come up with the perfect bar of soap for a given person. Bay Lavenders originally opened in August of last year.
Naturally, women love this store, since they can dive into the lovely lavender scents after shopping for jewelry at her sister Becky’s next door. But Cookie also has a soap called Autumn Mist that’s just for men or, as she puts it, “women who love men.”
“What is Glen Arbor? It’s the water, woods and fresh, clean air,” Cookie surmises. “That’s what I try to put in this soap, so that when people take it home with them they will be reminded of the wonderful, fresh clean scents of this place.
For Cookie the soaps offer a visceral experience, like a good glass of wine.
“The Autumn Mist, for instance, is a walk in the woods on a rainy autumn day and drinking Jasmine tea afterwards next to a fire. In my soap the lime is the rain, the balsam is the woods, the patchouli oil is the fire and the lavender is the Jasmine tea.”
Bay Lavender soaps are all handmade, and especially good for people with sensitive skin. They are the perfect northern Michigan creation because, Cookie says, Leelanau County is ideal for growing lavender. In fact, lavender and grapes prefer the same soil and climate. “Lavender is more forgiving, since the frost won’t hurt it.” Cookie gets most of her lavender from two county farms, but especially Leelanau Lavender Breezes on East Johnson Road in Northport because, she says, the couple that planted that farm both have PhDs in the field and they do everything exactly right.
Cookie also grows her own lavender in a beautiful garden right behind the shop, and she encourages folks to stop in and watch her make the soap. In this age of outsourcing and lack of identification with what the consumer buys, Cookie wants her customers to see and understand how local her products truly are.
Cookie currently produces her lavender soap in the evenings after working for Becky all day. She spends six months a year in Glen Arbor and the other six months in Key West, which she has done since 2001, and she has worked for Becky since 1990.
Bay Lavender is in the building that used to be Rich Quick’s old gas station and storage shed, which sat behind what’s now the Art’s Annex until it was moved to its current location next to Becky Thatcher’s in April of last year. The building retains its original wood, but the pretty exterior singles have replaced the more industrial-looking aluminum siding. Cookie says it smelled of oil, antifreeze and tires before she moved in, but now she’s replaced that with the wonderful sent of lavender soaps.