MUSCATINE, Iowa–After admiring the work of a friend in Michigan for some time, Merrill “Mario” Lebron knew he wanted to try his hand at making soaps. Earlier this year, he began experimenting with various blends until he found the perfect mix. “After a lot of ups and downs and what I call soap-tastrophes, I came up with a recipe that worked,” he shared. As Lebron gained experience, he started looking to sell his soaps and, as he put it, “turn a hobby into a business.” With the help of Darryl Ravary, he founded the Merrill Soap Company.
Over the course of the fall, the Merrill Soap Company began selling its first products at the Muscatine Farmers Market. Lebron created a variety of scents, many with local connections, which proved very popular. So far, “Autumn in Weed Park” and “Pearl of the Mississippi” have sold well, and Lebron hopes to add many more in the near future. “We’ll have over 100 different kinds,” he elaborated. He also plans to continue experimenting with different colors, molds, and even biodegradable glitter, allowing him to sell soaps that look as aesthetically pleasing as they smell. The Merrill Soap Company also has special lines of soap designed especially with men and children in mind.
With the holiday season fast approaching, Lebron and Ravary wanted a physical, indoor location where people could shop their soaps in person. To that end, they will open a pop up shop at 106 East Second Street. They will hold a preview event Nov. 15 during the Holiday Open House. At that time, they will show off some of their latest creations, including several holiday themed offerings.
They will then reopen Nov. 27 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and hold regular hours each Thursday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. through Dec. 20. They also plan to hold special open hours during any downtown holiday festivities announced at a later date.
For those wanting to shop from home, the Merrill Soap Company has an active Facebook page, which allows you to browse their selection, see their current specials, and send private messages with questions or orders. The Merrill Soap Company will deliver orders in Muscatine or Fruitland for free and can ship them to any other location as well.
As the opening of the Merrill Soap Company’s pop up shop grows near, Lebron and Ravary hope many residents will come visit and find some unique, Muscatine made gifts, for loved ones or even as a treat for themselves. If sales go well, they may look into having other pop up shops in the future. “Who knows, we might pop up somewhere else in town,” hinted Lebron.