Sometimes I will get a whiff of a smell that causes me to travel back in time. Memories that haven’t entered my head in forever come rushing back the second the scent enters my nose. All of a sudden, I am in my childhood feeling the same emotions I felt at that time.
When Ione Talese, showed me her Oreo Cookie soaps, I was transported. I remembered sitting at lunch in elementary school and having to force myself to eat my sandwich and fruit before I was able to eat my treat… which were always Oreo cookies. For that moment in time in Ione’s shop I felt like I was nine again.
Ione is the owner of Artisan Body Products on 9th and Asbury Avenue. Owning and running her own soap store brings her joy and happiness. The products on Ione’s shelves are from different soap artists whom Ione contacts and offers a spot in her store.
Even though the shop has only been on Asbury for three summers now, Ione’s love for soap started many years ago in college.
“I have always had a soap problem. I swear to God, I remember when I was in my college years I went to a soap store in Annapolis. I remember going in there and I went into some sort of trance. The smells and the packaging were so pretty, and I knew the products were great. I remember coming out of the store with this bag full of soap. I just sat in this B&B with my friend and it was just so great and I was so happy to enjoy all the soaps. Ever since then I love, love soap,” Ione said excitedly.
However, Ione had another love. Furniture. For 25 years of her life, Ione owned Hand Painted Furniture and Design Studio at 628 West Avenue. She painted wrap around beach scenes on furniture, and transformed old furniture that had lost its flare into something beautiful to put into a summer home.
“My husband George and I were doing the furniture together. He was an amazing carpenter. I did a lot of the hand painting,” Ione said.
Sadly, the furniture store went under in Hurricane Sandy. Ione and her husband lost 90 percent of the merchandise in their store.
After the devastation Ione took a year off, and when that year ended Artisan Body Products was born.
“One day I was picking up dinner at Sack ‘O Subs and I saw this poor little store with a for rent sign on it and I thought hmm, it might be too small but let’s go in and see. There was sand on the floor from Hurricane Sandy, but I really felt a sign that day that made me want to start a business here. So I went in and fixed it up, and here I am today,” Ione explained.
Fast forward a little bit, and now Ione is picking what products she wants to display in her shop…and the selection is very unique.
“When I’m looking for a new soap artist I do it anonymously. I get on the internet and I search around, I might look at a particular soap maker and see what they’re doing. If I’m interested in some of their soaps I’ll just go and buy it like everyone else. Once I get it I pass it around to my daughters and some of the girls I work with and we talk about it. We talk about what we liked and didn’t like and we kind of do a critique. Then we do thumbs up or thumbs down, if it’s thumbs down I move on to somebody else, and if it’s thumbs up I approach them and I invite them in and I showcase them in the store. So there’s always something new when you come in,” Ione said.
However Ione believes that soap should be affordable for everybody and she keeps everything in her shop at a reasonable price.
The smells, the presentation, the art, and the honesty of the ingredients in Ione’s store makes her grin from ear to ear.
“I get so jazzed up when an artist comes in with something new that she has created and it’s like nothing I have seen before. We do a lot of gift baskets and Christmas baskets. We take our time talking and wrapping things up and I really love getting to know my customers. A lot of my customers came with me from the furniture business and they have supported me for years. That is what Ocean City is really good for, people here support each other. I would never go anywhere else.” Ione said.
For this small business owner, the process is very personal.
“Finding soap really is an individual process. Finding what works for you and your skin and also what you like the most, it is very personal,” said Ione. “I have found my passion for the rest of my days and as long as I can get up in the morning this is something that I will be doing. It is very fulfilling and I really love interacting with people so this is really a great way I can share my passion with others. This is a hands-on business, I invite you and I want you to smell the soaps and get into it. That’s what I really love.”
Text by Paige Benedetto