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Handmade Soap and Self-Care with Martinsville Soapworks

Twenty years ago, Heather Kalisiak stood in her North Tonawanda kitchen and made her very first batch of soap from scratch. Like many soapmakers, she quickly outgrew the kitchen, then later her garage. “I eventually took over the second floor of our barn,” Heather admits.

Nine years ago this month, her soap making adventures moved into a storefront on Webster Street in North Tonawanda at Martinsville Soapworks, where she still makes every bar of soap using the same formula she develop 20 years ago.

“I’ve tweaked it a little,” she admits, “and I make 30 pounds of soap at a time now, not 4. But in the end, it’s still combining lye and oils to create soap.”

Customers new to handmade soap might be concerned that something so potentially dangerous as lye is listed as an ingredient on the label, but Heather explains that there is no lye left in the soap when it’s finished. “We can list ingredients in one of two ways – either by what goes in the pot, or by what comes out of the pot. The first way is much easier, and uses words people are familiar with. So it’s coconut oil and sodium hydroxide (lye) instead of sodium cocoate, which is the technical term for soap made with coconut oil. The lye has been all used up by the oils, so there’s none left at the end.” Heather hand-selected each of the six oils used in her soap formula, as each one plays a part in how the bar works. “Western NY is known for its hard water, so I use a lot of coconut oil, which creates a bubbly lather,” Heather explains. Other oils contribute to the hardness of the bar, the stability of the lather, and most importantly, how your skin feels afterward. “It’s not so much trial-and-error as a lot of math,” laughs Heather, who has a degree in English Literature from the University at Buffalo. With that perfectly balanced formula as its backbone, each soap creates a rich lather that rinses off cleanly and doesn’t dry out the skin; they’re long-lasting bars that smell great and make you feel clean.

A great gift for someone – and yourself

This time of year, people are looking for the perfect gift, and Martinsville Soapworks has a great array of handmade bath and body products for almost anyone. “Soap is a great gift for almost everyone, and choosing from our Holiday Collection makes it even easier. All of our Holiday scents are popular–minty fresh Peppermint Stick, the more masculine bayberry and pine notes of Holly Berry, the sweet Sugared Spruce, bracing First Snowfall, and our most popular Christmas Memories, which everyone says smells just like Christmas – we’ve got just about everyone on your list covered.” Matching lotions are available, as well as a hand and body wash for those who prefer liquid soap. 100% soy candles are also available in all the Holiday line, in case you’re worried about allergies. Their regular lineup of everyday fragrances is also available.

Heather also suggests adding a little something else into that shopping cart for yourself. At Martinsville Soapworks, the team promotes self-care by doing something for yourself every day, even if it’s that ten minutes in the shower.

“We tell people all the time: take care of yourself first,” Heather says. “It’s easier to take care of other people if you start with yourself.” To help make that shower an incredible experience, Heather suggests trying out their Scrub Cubes a few times a week. Scrub Cubes are a solid sugar scrub that is not only a great way to exfoliate and moisturize, but doesn’t leave a greasy mess in the tub like many other scrubs. Follow up with some Hand & Body Lotion that moisturizes and leaves a lingering fragrance, and a lip balm that’s perfect for a quick touch up of self-care on the go.

“We want to help you realize that you are important; you are a fabulous person who deserves nice things. Don’t save the fancy soap, use it!” she adds. “We will make more!”

Established in 2002, Martinsville Soapworks has resided at 88 Webster St., North Tonawanda, NY 14210 since 2013. To explore their full listing of products or see more of Heather Kalisiak’s story, check out their website at or on Facebook and Instagram!

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Heather Kalisiak
Heather Kalisiak

In 2023 Martinsville Soapworks moved from Webster St. to the Wurlitzer Industrial complex, at 908 Niagara Falls Blvd, still in North Tonawanda. We are located on the side facing the boulevard, next to Woodcock Brothers Brewing.😊

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