Best of the Bricks: Mama Bath and Body

Mama is based in Atlanta, GA and offers a wonderful range of handmade body and home products.  You can feel the love in every soap, scrub, and luscious scent.  Meet the wonderful world of Mama through the eyes of owner Emilie:

Mama is simply – handmade, casual, intimate. It’s a small space and the store was designed on a budget –  I didn’t have the money for a big build out, so we had to get crafty. I used lots of curtains and fabric to divide up the spaces in place of walls.  My mother-in-law set up her sewing machine in the shop and went to work. I also used big sheets of decorative papers to add color and pattern. The shop is constantly evolving, so everything was intentionally designed to be temporary. So we can move things around to accommodate new ideas or growth.

Mama’s branding is contemporary, but the space is eclectic. I designed the layout so the manufacturing kitchen is right in the middle of the shop. The customers actually get to see the products being made, which only reinforces my mission. It’s very casual so I can actually have a conversation about the products without being all sales-y.  I get a lot of feedback that people feel good in the space, which was precisely my goal.

I think the indie/handmade community has eradicated the idea that business isn’t personal. I like that, because that phrase has never set well with me.  When you’re making something with your own hands and then you’re out there yourself, selling it and interacting with your customers, it’s very personal. And I think our customers like that.  People like coming in my shop and seeing me, the person who makes the products.  And they like being recognized and appreciated. People want to be connected and that’s what brick and mortar does.

Even though it’s the road less traveled for handmade body care companies (most seem to sell wholesale and online), I have always seen a retail space as part of my business plan. So much of what I think is important about handmade body products happens behind the scenes. The process and the care it takes to craft a lotion or a soap from scratch is what divides us from the big companies manufacturing in factories, and since it’s out in the open, customers get to see it in person. I always knew that I wanted that to be part of Mama.

Why Handmade?

  • Deep respect for craftsmanship.  My paternal Grandfather was a wood worker and I still have a dresser he built for me when I was born. My maternal grandparents always lived in the country, where they grew food and flowers and we always had crafty projects going on.  A lot of my early memories are my time spent with them at their house, surrounded by nature. My maternal grandfather made these Santas every year out of different materials and then painted them. The entire collection was passed down to me and they are one of my favorite things in the world. They’re on display in my shop around the holidays if anyone wants to see for themselves.
  • 80’s revolt! I grew up in the 80’s, when designer brands were all the rage. Handmade wasn’t respected at all.  I remember getting a handmade cabbage patch doll, and I was so ticked because I wanted one that Xavier had signed.  But when I got into high school in the late 80’s, suddenly I was more interested in expressing my own style. I started shopping at thrift stores and putting together some interesting ensembles that didn’t look like what other people were wearing.  I really liked how that felt.  I liked differentiating myself and standing out from the crowd. I think that’s what handmade/indie is all about. To offer choices that are unique and different, which allows both the crafter and the customer to make a personal statement.
  • It’s all me. I believe that my choice to change my life and create a handmade business was an extension of these experiences. I was in the film industry for 14 years before I finally quit a year and a half ago to do this full time. (Mama has been around for 6 years, but I’ve only been doing it full-time for a year and a half) Film sounds like a creative field, but at the level I was working, it was much more about commerce. Which we all know usually squelches creativity.  I got really tired of dealing with the stress and headaches that come with managing projects that cost a lot of money. It was quite literally killing my soul. I had a strong desire to get back to the basics, to work with my hands, to create. I think that’s what has happened to a lot of people who have gotten into making stuff.  Beyond having a talent and wanting to express it, people are tired of getting laid off, or working in places where bureaucracy stymies actual progress. They want to have more control over the quality of their lives.  It’s a lifestyle choice and it’s a pretty big deal.

Truth be told… I could go on and on about this. In a nutshell, handmade body products offer consumers a healthier and more effective product than what’s out there on the mass market.  Period.  But because the industry isn’t regulated, big companies are pimping their products as all natural when they’re usually anything but.  It makes me so frustrated on so many levels. I have a lot of people come into my store with skin problems – eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis – you name it. They try my soap and it usually helps. And they’re shocked, because their dermatologists prescribed an “all-natural”  soap that was full of chemicals.  I just get so exasperated at having a much smaller voice than these huge companies, who have created faithful customers by lying to them. So whenever I think what I’m doing is inconsequential, I’ll be reminded that it is important by a customer who has had a problem solved because of my products.

Decatur, which is an intown suburb of Atlanta, was the perfect place to open up my first shop. Decatur is known to be laid-back and forward thinking, which suits Mama perfectly. The city itself is very focused on sustainability and eco-friendly initiatives. Also, my shop is only a few miles from where I live, and it really appealed to me to live and work within my community.  Plus, I’m not a commuter!

Mama Bath + Body
743D E College Ave
Decatur, GA 30030


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