Cocalico Corner: A squeaky clean stop on the Avenue

By on February 11, 2016
Beverly Kelly-Carfagno serves up soap and smiles at her new store

Beverly Kelly-Carfagno serves up soap and smiles at her new store.

You might say that Adamstown resident Beverly Kelly-Carfagno is all washed up.

Or that she’s finally coming clean.

Or maybe even that she’s dishing the dirt.

Actually, all three thoughts have grains of truth in the saga of the success of Kelly-Carfagno and her innovative and expanding Muddy Creek Soap Company.

The latest bubble in that sudsy tale is about to burst forth as she opens her first bricks-and-mortar store in West Reading amid the trendy shops and eateries on Penn Avenue.

On Friday, Feb. 12, amid the festitvities of the Avenue’s monthly Second Friday celebration, Kelly-Carfagno will officially open the doors at 608 Penn Ave. with a traditional ribbon cutting.

It’s clear Kelly-Carfagno is excited. Indeed, she smiles nearly nonstop as she speaks of this new chapter for both her company and her career.

“I had always dreamed of opening a little shop somewhere,” she said, standing in her nearly completed and incredibly fragrant storefront. “It came up suddenly and a little unexpectedly.”

Indeed, while Muddy Creek Soap Company has evolved over the past eight years, the store took shape in just under a month and a half.

Kelly-Carfagno said she and her husband Tom were Christmas shopping on the Avenue. They stopped at Curious, a shop owned by fellow Reading High School alumna Melissa Jamula, to chat.

“My husband saw the for-rent sign,” Kelly-Carfagno said. “We crossed the street, I wrote the number down, and made the call.”

The couple met with the owner the Saturday before Christmas and checked out the space. A few days after the New Year, the lease agreement was signed.

“The location was perfect,” she said. “It’s between the West Reading Taven and Chatty Monk’s. I could not pass this up.”

The couple began to transform the former Scrolls and Strings Violin House. Fortunately, they were able to repurpose some of the existing glass shelving units as well as some wooden tables, which when repainted, matched the new decor.

An ornate tall metal shelving unit was purchased at Curious and holds an array of products. Three antique metal trays add a shot of mid-century nostalgia.

A vintage claw-foot tub from the Centre Park Antiques Bank is a focal  point in the Muddy Creek Soap Company store in West Reading

A vintage claw-foot tub from the Centre Park Antiques Bank is a focal point in the Muddy Creek Soap Company store in West Reading.

The focal point — which also serves as semi-permanent window dressing — is an antique clawfoot tub purchased at the Centre Park Artifacts Bank in Reading.

Both Kelly-Carfagno and her husband have a long history in sales, traveling throughout the region for various companies. Indeed, their decision to settle in Adamstown was as much for easy proximity to the turnpike as it was for the ambiance of the borough and its surrounds.

As an experienced businesswoman, Kelly-Carfagno has kept her eye on a stringent bottom line. By repurposing furnishings, laying the flooring and painting the walls with the help of family and friends, and managing her own marketing has been helpful and, more importantly, cost-effective. Working with the Love West Reading merchants group and participating in their events helps spread the word as well.

While the store is new to Berks, Muddy Creek Soap Company products are familiar to area shoppers. It’s a Gift, Junk-to-Jazz, Deer Creek Farms, Sweet Surprises, and the former Allegro Arts all carried — or continue to carry — Muddy Creek Soap products. Additional regional stores carrying Muddy Creek products are listed on the company Web site www.muddycreeksoapcompany.com.

The majority of the products are made by Kelly-Carfagno who initially began making her own soaps as a hobby born of her hypersensitivity to mass-produced soaps.

While she started making soaps in 2008 (a glycerin-based soap was her first). That same year she attended an event at the York Expo Center where she witnessed a demonstration by an herbalist and a soapmaker from the Lancaster County Soapworks. After that, she dove into learning the art of soapmaking and doing follow-up research. She really kicked off her business in 2010 after separating from her last sales job. Prior to that, she was just gifting or her sharing her products with friends and family.

Using her sales and marketing acumen, she both expanded her own product line and added supplemental products and accessories from other vendors. She takes pride that her products are predominantly organic.

Her new store reflects the diversity of her own product lines — the soaps and lotions that she personally makes — along with miscellaneous items. There are also children’s and men’s products.

Prices range from $6 bars of Muddy Creek Soaps to $3.50 lip balm to $8 to $18 lotions. Gift baskets can be made on the spot though Kelly-Carfagno recommends pre-ordering.

Customers can even carve a slice of soap. Currently, they can do that with Kelly-Carfagno’s products as well as an intriguing imported organic African Black Soap from Ghana. Made in small villages, among the soap’s ingredients are lye from old ash, cocoa pods, and plantain skins.

While spicy, minty, woodsy, and flowery scents dominate, she does also make beer soap, two separate ones in homage her West Reading next-door neighbor Chatty Monks as well as her Stoudt’s Brewery Adamstown neighbors.

For the foreseeable future, Kelly-Carfagno expects to remain a one-woman workforce although she is working with an Albright College professor friend to develop a for-credit internship program.

She chuckles regarding her husband’s dubious reaction to the company name.

“I thought it was catchy plus it’s a tribute to the area where we live, but Tom said: ‘It will make people think of dirt and mud’,” she said. “I said: ‘Well, that’s the point, really’.”

And there was no question of changing the name for the store.

“I think it is a charming name and I hope it will make people want to open the door and check us out,” she said.

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