By Shayna Miller
Madison Magazine, July 2011
The Soap Opera is by far the most creatively named shop in the city. The moniker fits its decidedly unconventional beginnings: owners Chuck Bauer and Chuck Beckwith started by selling crafts on a blanket in Library Mall in the ’70s! It’s lovably Madison’s own, and this thirty-nine-year-old institution is still peddling its luxe bath and body products.
The soap business really “began as a lark,” says Bauer. Back “in the blanket era,” he jokes, friends started requesting they carry natural body products so Bauer and Beckwith started offering them in addition to their crafts. Fast-forward to their third and current location, which was renovated by the owners themselves. That’s quite a soap opera.
Despite the introduction of chain bath and body specialty stores, customers still return to this State Street favorite to pick up their private line of bar and liquid soaps, lotion, shampoo, conditioner and custom scents as well as Burt Bee’s product, Crabtree & Evelyn and Pacifica goodies.
Bauer and Beckwith had the foresight to carry (now) well-known L’Occitane en Provence and Crabtree & Evelyn product lines, and have always offered natural and biodegradable potions—something that’s hot right now.
“Our customers have great loyalty. We have second- and third-generation customers,” notes Bauer, proudly. “Things have caught up with us—we’ve been here from the beginning.”
Mason Pearson brushes are revered by top hairstylists for their boar bristles, which help bring shine to locks. $80–$170
Burt’s Bees are wildly popular all-natural body products. The shop has an entire back-wall display devoted to their line. $2.99–$25
ROCK AND ROLL
These Soap Rocks are actually made by (surprise!) a geologist and each is designed to mimic an actual gemstone or rock. $9.95
BELLY UP TO THE BAR
Employees carve up a slice of soap for you on the spot at the soap bar. $6–$8
“People have whole collections of our ducks!” says Bauer. Find ’em in every iteration from sailor to policeman. $2–$5
POTIONS AND LOTIONS
Bauer says customers adore their Soap Opera line that’s made just for the store. Find body oils, bubble bath, skin care and more. Amazingly, the shop has had a a fully shoppable website since 1994—so customers can pick up any of these items virturally, too. $5–$25