The Adventures of the Jersey Tomato: Soap making - Ocean City Sentinel: News

The Adventures of the Jersey Tomato: Soap making

By ELIZABETH “LIBBY” LITTLE/Sure Guide | Posted: Tuesday, August 13, 2019 11:33 am

MARMORA — “The swirls are so fluid,” Charlene “Charlie” McCardell said as she gawked while holding a block of Apple Martini-scented soap.

It was about 11:30 a.m. and I was at Little Egg Harbor Soap Co.’s location in the Marmora sectiom of Upper Township. It took longer than I expected to get there, and I wasn’t even sure if I had been to Marmora before giving the soap company a visit. Whenever somebody mentioned Marmora before, I just nodded, smiled and pretended to know where it is. While driving there, Siri let me know that the magical land of Marmora was through Ocean City and over the 34th Street bridge, or just an exit off the Garden State Parkway. But I didn’t want to pay a toll — classic Jersey Tomato.

After arriving, we entered a small room the size of a walk-in closet with no windows. Charlie looked focused, like she was about to tell us that the room we were in is a secret government-sanctioned interrogation room, and we were suspects in an ongoing international organized crime ring. 

That would have given me a lot to write about.

But instead, Charlie asked me not to publish any of their secrets. So, like my previous Manco and Manco article, how Little Egg Harbor Soap Co. makes its rich, lathery homemade soap is confidential. 

But what I can share is that the room we were in was beautiful, with racks wall to wall of colorful, glittery and wonderful-smelling soaps. But what’s more intriguing to me, more than sparkly things, is the company’s story.

“This October marks 22 years,” Charlie said.

It all started with Kathy Notaro, who in 1997, while still pursuing her career in nursing, read a small book about making soap at home. From there, Notaro started making scrubs and lotions, then purchased her first small store from where she sold her soap for about two years, Charlie explained. Now Little Egg Harbor Soap Co., or LEH Soap for short, has five locations — two in Ocean City, (one on Asbury Avenue, the other on 13th Street and the Boardwalk), the one we were at in Marmora, another in Delaware and, my personal favorite location, in historic Smithville. I remember going there even as a little kid and smelling each and every individually wrapped bar of soap. It’s truly part of growing up in southern New Jersey and being a Jersey Tomato. 

“I remember opening the Smithville store with her,” said Charlie, Kathy Notaro’s sister. “It really is our flagship store.” 

After a bit of history, it was time to get down and clean. (Not down and dirty, because we’re in a soap store, remember?). Staff member and resident bath “fizzy” expert Nicole taught me how to make the iconic Bath Fizzies. We prepared products for August’s “scent of the month,” which is Cucumber. (Customers get 25 percent off all cucumber products in August.) 

“You’re strong, Libby, you got it!” Charlie said from across the room as I packed both green and white powder into a sphere-shaped mold. 

“You definitely need strength to do these,” Nicole said as she squeezed the life out of the mold.

I am totally lacking upper body strength, so it is no wonder why my bath fizzy, even with the assistance of the mold, turned out less like a ball shape and more like a distorted ovular handprint.

“It is so perfectly me,” I said to my partner, photographer Rebecca Fox, laughing and holding up my “bomb.”

Nicole couldn’t stop laughing.

“We’ll save it, we’ll put it right here,” she said amid giggles as she placed my bomb next to her perfectly circular models. 

My next bomb turned out to be a bit better, but still didn’t meet the perfectionist standards of Little Egg Harbor Soap Co., so I gave it to Becca.

I took my gloves off and retired from my work. After sculpting, the bath fizzies then take a day to dry, so that they don’t crumble while being wrapped and labeled.

All of the soaps, fizzies, scrubs, lotions, conditioners, shampoos and even labels are made in the Marmora location and shipped to the other stores immediately to provide the freshest, best-smelling products possible. 

The company also runs an  online store, which will ship the scents of southern New Jersey directly to homes wherever they are. 

While sitting and writing this Jersey Tomato adventure at Ocean City Coffee Co. on Asbury Avenue, I see an older, stocky man pull out a black LEH Soap bag with its iconic blue mermaid stamped on it, and I am reminded of the business model of the company: Community and giving back. The company sends soap and baskets to soldiers overseas for the holidays, and its very eco-conscious. Everything is recycled — boxes, packing peanuts … everything.

I have to certify this adventure 98% Jersey Tomato fresh, because, like I said, it is a clean soap company after all.