Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Left Hand Soap Co. settles into new downtown location


By Elizabeth Thiel | Assistant Culture Editor 

The latest chapter of Left Hand Soap Company’s 19-year story began this year with the opening of a new downtown storefront on University Boulevard. Since its beginnings with the home owner and manager Soapy Jones, the business has expanded across Tuscaloosa and even the country, but physical locations are a relatively new development for the soapmakers. The original Left Hand store was intended to be a production space only, until people started showing up to the door. 

The space the store now occupies was once known as T-Town Market. The move was so quick, there wasn’t even time to change the old T-Town Market sign on the building before Left Hand was open for business in its new home. 

Increasing demand in their products meant change. Just as Left Hand was looking to expand their production space once again, Black Warrior Brewing offered the space to Jones after T-Town Market vacated. Jones and her team made the space their new home in hardly any time at all.

The move entailed three weeks of planning from start to finish, and the final finished store was opened within three days of vacating the previous location. 

“It was very fast,” Jones said. “36 hours of turnover. We couldn’t delay production for very long.” 

While such a short turnaround might intimidate some business owners, Jones didn’t hesitate to take a golden opportunity. 

“It was too easy to say yes to, and too ridiculous to say no to,” she said.

Perfect timing wasn’t the only miracle involved in the move. Frequenters of Tea Town, Alabama’s former brick-and-mortar tea shop turned tea truck, might even recognize the rustic wooden counter in Left Hand’s new store. The counter was donated by Tea Town owners, who now operate their business without the traditional, immobile storefront.  

“Jonathan [Gardner] and I are friends, and he hit me up when he heard that we were moving,” Jones said. 

Moving the counter in was another sign for Jones that the move was a step in the right direction—remarkably, it fit. The relocated counter is Jones’ way of keeping a Tuscaloosa icon alive with a fresh new start.

“We couldn’t imagine it would fit as perfectly as it does,” Jones said. 

She added that it provides an ideal division for the store, solving the problem of keeping production spaces separate from display while keeping the whole process visible to curious customers.

The decor isn’t the first collaboration between Tea Town and Left Hand Soap Company. Many seasonal products featured at the shop are made using ingredients locally-grown by Tea Town.

Incorporating a physical piece of Tuscaloosa history into the shop seems like a perfect reflection of Left Hand’s place in the community. Left Hand has a long history of partnering with other local businesses. 

Valeria Crawford, manager and cosmetics buyer for Manna Grocery, has noticed an increased demand in the Left Hand products their store has stocked over the years. 

“It has definitely been popular always around gift-giving time, but I have noticed that it’s picked up in just everyday sales and that people are realizing that it’s important what you put on your skin and if it’s more locally-made, there’s going to be less unnecessary junk added to it,” Crawford said. 

Because of the close connection between the two companies, Crawford has seen firsthand how the selection of products has expanded. The sense of community exists not only between Left Hand and its customers, but also its collaborators. 

“Also, she gets her essential oils that she uses in the soaps a lot of the times, she’ll get them from here, so we know where some of the ingredients have come from,” Crawford said. “We also order sugar for her for the sugar scrubs,” 

Left Hand collaborates with local breweries such as Druid City Brewing Co. and Black Warrior Brewing to make a line of beer soaps as well. 

Jones’ focus is not solely on the business side of the company, but on the people it serves. A more central location brings the products closer to the heart of Tuscaloosa.

“It allows us to have an exchange with the community that we couldn’t have in the old space,” Jones said. 

There are products to accommodate many specific needs, but none are quite as personal as the Milo soap. Named after its inspiration, the low-lather soap was specially designed to meet the needs of a family friend on the autism spectrum who struggled at bath time. Soaps with richer lathers, Jones said, are often uncomfortable and over-stimulating for people with autism. 

Though the shop sells the Milo soap among a multitude of products, Jones still holds that particular creation dear. 

“I love that soap almost as much as I love Milo,” she said. 

From turning an empty space into a new home base to helping customers find products suited specially for them, Jones welcomes challenges.

“My interest has always been finding solutions to problems,” she said. “I like puzzles. I like taking them apart and pouring rosemary all over them.”

As if the the physical changes to the company weren’t enough to keep customers excited and the business owners busy, Jones shared that Left Hand will be introducing new products throughout the next few months.

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