Bee Naturals, which opened in Maplewood (7192 Manchester Avenue) in late November, is actually a 22-year-old company. Owner Barbara Chappuis started out as a hobbyist soap-maker in California the late 1980s. She grew up in south St. Louis.
“I’ve always liked making things and knowing how things work,” she said. “I was always busy making something in the garage.”
Chappuis named her company Bee Naturals because most of her products contain either bees wax, honey or propolis (another bee product). She now carries more than a hundred items, including cosmetics, bathing products, lipstick, and products for babies and men.
Chappuis moved to Clarksville, MO, 20 years ago with a career with a medical company, and opened a storefront (103 N. First Street) to make and sell her soap on the side. That’s when she developed her Skin Creme Bar, to take care of her own hands.
“I’m a nurse by profession, and you have to scrub your hands a million times a day, and my skin would crack open,” she said. “I used to slather my hands in all kinds of stuff. Nothing helped.” She said creams and lotions generally have a high percentage of water and is easily washed off.
She took what I learned from soap-making and made her Skin Creme Bars from bee’s wax, olive oil, coconut oil, castor oil and vitamin E, which bonds with the top layers of the skin and forms an invisible barrier.
“Our skin is our largest organ,” Chappuis said. “The skin will take care of itself, but especially in the winter, or when using petroleum-based lotions, it keeps denuding the natural protective oils and the skin has a hard time keeping moisture in.”
She left her corporate job four years ago. “I took that leap of faith at 55,” she said. “I liked what I did but I needed to give my company all of me. There have been some white knuckle moments, but it’s been wonderful.”
Bee Naturals has been in the Best of Missouri Market, at the Missouri Botanical Garden for 14 years. Chappuis noticed customers were waiting for her each year and decided it was time to open a store in St. Louis. She said she knew what Maplewood was before and what it’s become, and liked the new “vibe.”
“I’ve sat on planning and zoning for Clarksville, so I know what kind of infrastructure cities need to build to sustain economic growth,” she said. “Maplewood has done all the right things.”
Chappuis said she has no regrets on the new store; even before she opened neighbors stuck their heads in the door and welcomed her.
Now she’s deciding if the next move is to go into larger scale manufacturing, or working with a company with facilities to make her products in large scale. She also sells online with iherb.com. Currently, everything is made small-batch, by hand in Clarksville.
Bee Naturals will be be holding an open house during the Maplewood Christmas Tree Walk—it’s two blocks east of Schlafly Bottleworks. Find Bee Naturals on Facebook too.