MY FORMER hairstylist, Steve Duross, 51, of Midtown Village, a native of Willow Grove, is founder and owner of duross & langel, on 13th Street near Sansom. The shop specializes in natural, handmade soaps, bath and body products. It opened in 2004 in the front room of Duross' former home on Locust Street near 12th, which also housed the salon where he styled my hair.
Q: When did you get into the soap business?
A: I opened my first store in 1999, the Philadelphia Soap Co., which I later sold. Then I started working for Joe Grooming. I'm creative director and do freelance product development. And duross & langel started because I had that urge to create.
Q: What about the move to Midtown Village?
A: In 2007, I closed my salon and moved. I approached PNC about a loan and we financed close to $100,000 to come into this space. We put the gift shop on the first floor and built a kitchen on the second floor. A woman in western Pennsylvania makes the base formulas for my soap in her lab, and I buy from her.
Q: So how's the process work?
A: She ships the product here, and we cure and finish it. The same thing occurs with balms and scrubs. I work with a family-run lab near Reading. They listen to what I want, we talk about ingredients and they produce basic formulas and lab test stuff to meet FDA standards.
Q: The duross & langel brand?
A: An affordable luxury. I've looked at the L'Occitanes and the Kiehl's that have been some of the better lines for years, and I say, "I want to go beyond that."
Q: Many salons sell natural bath products. What distinguishes you?
A: Quality and affordability. All our products, even at the lab, are made by hand. You're batching by hand. You're working with people plying their craft, all done in Pennsylvania.
Q: What do some of your best-selling products cost?
A: A bar of soap averages around $6.25. If I'm using the right ingredients, soap's good enough for your face, your hands, your feet, you don't need four different products. An 8-ounce bottle of shampoo averages $16.
Q: Who's the typical duross & langel customer?
A: Somebody between 25 and 45, men and women. People who shop here tend to be well-educated, professional, urban.
Q: How big is this?
A: The goal every year is to be better than the one before. That's how I've been able to grow the business and bring employees on as partners. We're about to break $1 million in annual revenue.
A: Four full time and three part time.