Small Business Spotlight: Mama Bath + BodyEmilie Sennebogen Bryant opened Mama Bath + Body in Decatur in 2009. The store, now in Avondale, sells body products, teas and herbs, and some plants and gardening accessories. Photo submitted by Emilie Sennebogen Bryant.
By Zoe Seiler, contributor
Avondale Estates, GA — Mama Bath + Body was created in a small Los Angeles apartment in 2004 while Emilie Sennebogen Bryant lived in the city for eight years and worked as a freelancer in the film industry.
Wanting to scratch a creative itch to make homemade products, Bryant fell into body products as it was something she enjoyed using.
She started making lotions, scrubs and similar things to sell at local markets and festivals in Los Angeles, and began making soap when she moved to Atlanta in 2005.
She quickly realized that soap is something everyone uses and is a common denominator for self-care.
“So once we added soap to the business, I felt like it really started to become established and to where it could be a legitimate source of income,” Bryant said.
The store sells various body products, like soap, lotion, scrubs and hand sanitizer. They also offer candles, a herb and tea bar, and a small garden section with succulents and air plants.
The store sells supplies too, like soy wax for candle making and lye for soap making, Assistant Manager Madalyn Hardwick said.
The name, Mama Bath + Body, came as a play on Mother Earth and Mother Nature and Bryant aimed to make the brand fun and lighthearted.
“I wanted the packaging and the concept to be more lighthearted and natural products just seemed so serious back then,” she said.
Bryant quit her job during the recession, which she said seemed like a good idea at the time, but getting the retail store off the ground was slow at first. The store first opened on E College Avenue in Decatur in 2009.
Growth was slow in the first few years, but that allowed Bryant to make mistakes on a small scale and build the business to the point where she was ready to manage a booming store.
Mama Bath + Body eventually outgrew that space and moved to the Tudor Village in Avondale Estates in 2014, and also opened a location at Krog Street Market that same year.
However, 2020 changed Bryant’s plans for the store. She was hoping to open a third location but was unable to because of COVID-19. She also made the painful decision to close the Krog Street Market location.
“So the past year has just been kind of like a big tornado that I’ve just been kind of trying to stay centered in and take what comes,” Bryant said.
The Avondale store was also closed temporarily for in-person shopping from March to July 2020. Although the store was able to be in operation to fulfill online orders.
“It hasn’t been without struggle, but we’ve been able to survive, which I think speaks volumes for our customers and our place in the community,” she added. “So I’m very grateful for that.”
The overarching reason for closing the Krog location was not having control over COVID-19 safety in the store.
“We’re a wellness brand first and foremost. We’re taking this pandemic seriously,” Bryant said. “Opening in a food hall where we didn’t have control over the clientele, or the number of people. It’s a tiny space. There was no way to distance.”
The Avondale store however has multiple coronavirus protocols in place.
Staff and customers are required to wear masks in the store and Bryant has a no-nonsense policy regarding properly wearing masks.
Hardwick explained that there are signs posted around the store to remind customers to wear masks properly over the nose and below the chin. She said they have had almost no issues with mask compliance.
The biggest change, Hardwick and Bryant said, was moving the soap table to the back of the store behind a plexiglass barrier. It used to be a self-service table where customers could grab soap off the table.
But it’s now managed by employees who use tongs to put the soap in individual bags.
Plexiglass has also been installed at the tea counter and cash register.
There’s also a hand sanitizing station at the entrance of the store and customers are asked to clean their hands upon entering. The store is also cleaned regularly.
The online portion of the business increased during the pandemic as people are shopping from home more and more.
“Definitely the majority of our revenue [before COVID-19] came from in-person shopping, but now our online store has pretty much, like at this point it’s the equivalent of what Krog used to be for us, which has been obviously great since we closed that store,” Hardwick said.
Hardwick has always felt safe in the Avondale store and said that Bryant is prioritizing the health and safety of the staff and customers.
She said that while it was a tough decision to close the Krog location, the staff has become closer while all working in Avondale. Her favorite part of the day is interacting with her coworkers and customers.
“This is definitely the best job that I’ve ever had,” Hardwick said. “So I don’t know, all of us on staff, both in production and in the store, we all just get along really well, we work really well together, and it’s honestly been great.”
Mama Bath + Body is located at 112 N Avondale Road. It is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
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