Let’s belly up to the bath bar


  • Thursday, January 8, 2009 5:35pm
  • Business

Associate Shanon Pruden and store owner Victoria VanNocken do a sniff test on a batch of salt scrub

There’s a small bottle of oil at the “scent bar” inside Bath Junkie. It’s called Liquid Valium.

One whiff of the lavender, mandarin orange and bergamot infusion begets utter calm.

“This is the non-pharmaceutical method of therapy for a lot of us,” Victoria VanNocken said.

And that transformative potential is the magic of Bath Junkie, where chemistry and emotion meet in a line of skin-friendly, cruelty-free and above all, fully customizable products for bath and body, home, and pets.

First conceived in 1996 by a mother-daughter duo from Fayetteville, Ark., Bath Junkie has over 70 franchises in the U.S. But there’s only one location in Washington State, opened on Dec. 20 by VanNocken, her husband, Don, and her mom at 123 Bjune Dr. Just behind the candy store, VanNocken hastens to point out.

When a customer walks in the door, any of five staff members will offer a greeting and a hand spa treatment consisting of a scented salt scrub followed by a spritz of Body Dessert bath oil spray.

These two products form the cornerstone of Bath Junkie’s inventory; VanNocken said that if a customer buys nothing else, this pair is it, the complete regime.

But why limit yourself? Arranged on display islands throughout the shop are items like Bath Ballz – speaks for itself – lotion, shampoo, body wash and conditioner; colognes and pure oils; the “OCD” hand wash; and home products such as fine linen wash, dish soap and Clean Freak all-purpose anti-bacterial spray cleanser.

There’s even a line of pet products to keep your domestic companion – that is, the one of an animal variety – fresh smelling and flea-and-tick resistant.

The process for taking an item from its original form to the customized version you carry home is akin to cooking up a divine dessert. Take the salt scrub, which goes from pure crystal to a frothy-yet-dense slougher.

“It’s what we call the crown jewel of salt scrubs. And I’ve used every salt scrub in the world,” VanNocken said.

Start in the front of the store, at the scent station, where over 200 fragrance oils await. Some are essential oils like eucalyptus, peppermint, and lavender; the bulk are the highest quality cosmetic-grade synthetic oils, grouped according to type. Bay rum, cucumber lime, sweet magnolia, juniper breeze. Yum. If you’re overwhelmed, keep in mind that there’s no time limit, and the associates are patient.

“We encourage customers to stay here and play around as much as they want, as long as they want,” VanNocken said.

Still, if the prospect of working your way through such a volume of offerings proves immobilizing, VanNocken or one of the associates will start asking questions. Do you like to smell, and smell like, lemons? The woods? Roses? Issey Miyake? Ralph Lauren? Patchouli? Even dirt? Tuning in to your olfactory wavelength helps narrow the field to a single or a few combined scents.

Menus are available, too, with suggested blends. VanNocken, a citrus lover, favors the Eye Opener, which includes mandarin orange along with two scents called “fresh air” and “rain.” The Idols page of the menu features favorite blends from Bath Junkie employees nationwide. There are also men’s blends and ones specially blended for the home and pet products.

After product and scent are selected, it’s time to pick a tint, one of 15 water-based cosmetic colorants in a pastel-rainbow assortment. No longer does strawberry have to be pink, or lime to be green.

“If you love lavender, and you’ve got to have your bubble bath, but it doesn’t go with your yellow bathroom….” VanNocken said.

Next, head over to the kitchen area, where an associate pours the salt into a stainless-steel mixing bowl, then adds two squirts of a vitamin A, D and E lotion with no toxic parabens, alcohol or sodium lauryl sulfate.

Along those same lines of “good for you, good for the earth,” none of Bath Junkie’s products are tested on animals, and a percentage of sales are donated to organizations that support wind power as an alternative energy form.

The lotion is followed by a squirt of Silky All Over hand and body wash, one squirt of Bodacious Body Oil to seal in the moisture, and one squirt of walnut scrub, another exfoliant.

A spritz of the chosen color is followed by a stir with a spatula.

(Again with the dessert thing. Especially since this particular customer has chosen a chocolate and peppermint blend with a silky tan tint. It resembles sugar cookie dough, and it’s all she can do to abstain from sticking in a finger and having a taste.)

The final scrub mixture is poured back into its jar, given a customized label, and wrapped with care.

Buyer’s remorse? Unlikely.

“You shouldn’t go out of here unhappy with the product you make, because you are making it,” VanNocken said.

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