The story of The Pass Christian Soap Company is one of inspiration and creativity, followed by disaster and resiliency.
Paula Lindsey started the company in her Pass Christian home in 2001 after observing that local retail shops did not carry any locally made bath products. Using natural ingredients, she tweaked formulas for a couple of years and used family and friends as guinea pigs. When this connoisseur of elegant bath products was satisfied she had the right combination, she approached select outlets along the Coast to sell her creations.
“I approached Hillyer House, but they weren’t interested. I went back with a packaged assortment, and they loved it,” she recalls. “I also took one to the Beau Rivage and didn’t get home before they called.”
Lindsey was a bit dismayed when she received a book-thick vendor packet from the Beau’s parent company, MGM Mirage, in Las Vegas, but persevered and was rewarded with an initial $10,000 order.
Big move, big storm
She pulled her retired mother, Vera Blackmon, in as a partner and the duo was off and running. They moved the operation out of Lindsey’s home when her husband, Bo, grew weary of the coffee tasting like soap. The Pass Christian Soap Company was poised to make another move into larger space when Hurricane Katrina came calling.
“We were just devastated, losing our home and the house the business was in,” Lindsey says. “We re-located temporarily in Daphne, Ala., and found rental space for the business. It’s beautiful here, but it’s not home. We’re building our home back in Timber Ridge and building business space on Canal Road, just off Interstate 10, exit 31.”
Bo Lindsey is president of United Truck Group and commutes to his work in Gulfport. He and a partner are developing a strip mall where the soap company will locate. She hopes to open at the new location August 29, the third anniversary of the killer storm.
“It will be like saying ‘Ha, you didn’t slap us down,’” Lindsey said. “We want to eventually be back in Pass Christian; that’s our goal for the company but the city and its services are not ready for us yet.”
Instead, The Pass Christian Soap Company will be housed in a 5,000-square-foot facility, using 1,000 square feet for a retail store in the front. Lindsey makes it clear that it will not be a factory outlet store because she will not undersell her retail clients.
“We will also pull in some Pass Christian artwork and the front façade will look like an old Pass Christian building,” she said. “It will be a nice development on that corner and will have the same theme throughout.”
Feels like family
In the meantime, the Mississippi expatriates are happily growing their business in Daphne where they rent a building from Chris Hinkley and employ six local residents.
“We adore Chris so much we took him in as an investor,” Lindsey said. “The employees here are like family, and we hope to have that same feeling when we move back to the Coast. We usually keep 11 employees.”
Represented by sales rep groups all over the country, the business has flourished with Internet and mail order sales in addition to retail outlets. The Pass Christian Soap Company is displayed in a Dallas showroom and has been contacted by two showrooms in Atlanta. Lindsey expects to be located in the Georgia city soon, noting they are just about to go national. Currently, the company’s products are in more than 250 retail outlets.
The approximately 90 products include a full range of bath products and lotions for women and men. They are attractively packaged and have custom labels.
Lindsey, who formerly designed swim wear, says the design part of the business is instinctive for her. “I have no formal training, but I do a lot of research and look at color trends,” she said. “Women want things, including bath products, to match their décor.”
She is grateful for the support of the MGM Mirage that put Lindsey’s products in all its properties after Katrina shut down the Beau Rivage and many of her other accounts.
“They supported us in a big way and helped keep us going after Katrina. Now, we have customers in North Mississippi, too, and have some waiting in the wings in Texas,” she said. “My husband is also supportive and is working to gather capital to take us to the next level.”
Although Lindsey says the years since Katrina have been a daily struggle, she and her family have remained optimistic and determined to return home.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.