Well, it certainly wasn’t the “slow and steady wins the race” approach in the beginning.
Ronda and Greg Cool hadn’t made a single bar of soap and never imagined they would when their grandson developed skin issues in 2009. Their solution at the time has become, in the intervening years, the heart and soul of Rosewood Emporium in Westgate Mall, which is to say it’s natural, crafted by hand, homemade and driven by purpose.
It quickly progressed from there at a blistering pace in small business terms. Discovering a taste for herbal bath and body remedies, the Cools established the emporium only a year later in June 2010 and the business has subsequently thrived and grown into 2021 and beyond.
“Our grandson, he was a toddler and he had some skin issues going on his back. Everything we tried didn't work, and I said, ‘Well, let's have a stab at this. Let’s see what we can do.’ So we started making soap and that made the difference for him,” Ronda Cool said during a phone interview Wednesday, June 2. “Never, ever in a million years was it on our radar to do something like this.”
“We made our first few batches, so we started giving it away,” Cool said. “People were saying, ‘This is really helping my dry skin or sensitive skin or allergies. And so it kind of melded into, ‘Well, maybe it's time that we put this out there for other people besides just the people that we know personally.’ When we first started in 2010, we were a little bit ahead of the times for Brainerd, but we have seen that evolve. It was painfully slow at first. Now people are more and more aware of the toxic substances that are in their (factory-made bath) products.”
The Cools started at the Crow Wing Food Co-op just off Washington Street in 2010, then shifted locations four years later in 2016 when they moved to Westgate Mall.
All of their products — whether it’s soap bars, conditioners, lotions, essential oils, bath salts, and the like — are handmade by Ronda, Greg and their daughter Becca Stalker in the back of the shop, Cool said, and if they’re not 100% natural, they’re likely north of 95% at the low end. Cool noted she and her husband are certified herbalists and aroma therapists with more than 3,000 hours of study under their belts. The result of this expertise can be found in every color, scent, texture and medicinal property.
“We wanted to do without all of the chemicals, the sulfates,” Cool said. “It’s crazy, the things that are in the products that people use and they don't even realize it.”
As such, Cool said, Rosewood Emporium’s ethos is unabashedly in defiance of large pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers that cut corners when they shouldn’t and add ingredients that have no business being introduced to the human body, especially in children. Cool characterized the industry as unethical and blinded by profit motive. When customers stop by Rosewood Emporium, she said, they’ll find bath products created from techniques that have been around for centuries; based on unprocessed ingredients; and crafted by trained professionals whose goal is a natural, beneficial experience.
An example of this is one of the emporium’s top sellers: A specialized form of soap designed to alleviate the symptoms of mild to severe poison ivy rashes. This ethos is also evident in the form of education, Cool said, who described the emporium’s efforts to teach and answer questions about homemade herbal remedies as a matter of self-empowerment.
“We do a lot of educating. Anybody who needs help, we're here. Like how to make their own products at home, or walking them through that process,” Cool said. “We believe very, very strongly that knowledge is power.”