Pioneer Natural Soap Company

From Lane Co Oregon

Soap maker got recipe from grandma

Published: April 17, 2008 12:00AM

One thing about Pioneer Natural Soap Company — the place smells awfully good.

Chief soap maker Kathy Houghton and her husband, Don, own the aromatic shop in Paramount Center near 21st and Main streets. There, they make and sell dozens of varieties of natural soaps, shower gels, candles and other hand-crafted products.

The shop specializes in products for people with allergies and sensitive skin.

Kathy Houghton said she spent eight years making and selling soap from her home and at weekly Saturday Market events in Eugene before turning the hobby into a full-time job in 2005.

“My grandma used to make soap, and she gave me the recipe,” Houghton said. “It took me about a year of experimenting to figure it all out.”

Houghton said she produced more than 2,000 pounds of soap in 2007.

Pioneer Natural’s soaps sell for between $1 and $1.50 per ounce, and they are available in a variety of sizes. One of the shop’s top sellers is a blend of oatmeal, honey and shea butter.

Kathy Houghton sat down last week for a question-and-answer session on her business:

How long have you been in Springfield?

“We opened (in a spot near 11th and Main streets) in 2005. We’ve been here (at the present location) since July of ’06.”

Houghton is a Springfield native.

How many employees do you have?

“It’s me, my husband, and my mom helps. I make the stuff, and my husband cuts all the soap up and helps wrap it.”

What is the biggest challenge facing your business?

“It’s been tough with the economy what it is. It’s always difficult when you’re a small business and you don’t do beaucoup bucks, so you have to wait for the funds to buy supplies.

“But it’s not about the money. It’s about making something of value to people.”

What part of your work do you like best?

“The creativity — the artistic aspect. I also like it when other people feel good about an item, and come back and tell me how much they love it.”

Who are your typical customers?

“It’s getting to where it runs the gamut. It’s all over the board.” But she said one common denominator is that her customers value local, handmade goods.

Pioneer Natural Soap Company is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

You can phone the shop at 747-4866.

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