When Chris Cozzoni and Chris Freeland moved into the Tower Grove East neighborhood in 2000, they began a loving restoration of their circa 1897 home. They discovered a community of people who supported and encouraged one another not only in building the future of their neighborhood, but also in personal pursuits as well. One neighbor recommended we interview the pair for a Made in St. Louis profile. “They make wonderful soaps,” she said.
The strikingly colorful bars each bear the stamp of a fleur-de-lis on the bar. “We love the fleur-de-lis,” Cozzoni says. “They decorate the original wrought iron fence around our home. We gave bars of soap to our neighbors, who became our first paying customers.”
The pair met for their interview at Kitchen House Coffee, a neighborhood hangout where their soaps are available for purchase.
“In 2013, I gave Chris a soap making kit as small Christmas gift,” Freeland says. “The idea was we would maybe make a handful of soaps. It would be something to do if we were housebound during a snowstorm.”
The snowy day scenario Freeland envisioned didn’t materialize, but the simple gift had a snowball effect. The two became so intrigued by the soap making they went far beyond the limits of their kit to produce and sell their hand-crafted soaps under the name South Compton Soaps in October 2014.
Chemistry and artistry • “Soapmaking is fun because it combines exact chemistry and artistic expression,” Cozzoni says. “I was really into chemistry at Francis Howell High School, so this is fun for me.” Soapmaking is a business hobby rather than a full-time pursuit for the two business and life partners. The professionalism, product research and methods they use in their regulated home business reveal itself in their conversation.
A business, too • “We’re legit — every year our home kitchen gets inspected to make sure we’re up to standards,” Freeland says. Cozzoni and Freeland both enjoy thinking up new soaps and experimenting with scents and colors. The two realized early on that scents can recall the past for people and that choosing a soap is a very personal experience.
Pride of place, purpose and scent memories • “We both grew up in the country and love the outdoors,” Freeland says. “Now we live in the city, and we ask ourselves, what are the places we love? What do we like to do? We think locally, then develop the soaps that tell stories about our lives. ... For example, City Park, with notes of grass and honeysuckle, represents our love of the parks in our neighborhood. I ride bikes, so when we developed Bike Path soap we included pumice, an exfoliant, so that a rider can scrub the chain grease off his or her leg after a ride.”
Scents from hobbies • “I run and skateboard for fun,” Cozzoni says. Freeland recently added riding scooters to his physical hobbies. Their soaps reflect their pursuits of sports and hobbies but provide a little fun, too. “We’re just average men in our 40s running around and acting like teenagers. We’re here to represent,” Freeland says. Both men enjoy a trip to the local pubs and breweries, so beer soap was a natural. “Beer actually produces a nice sudsing,” Cozzoni says. “Our Pub Soap has notes of cedar, bergamot and pale ale.”
Gender neutral • The scents of South Compton Soaps have wide appeal, a characteristic the men developed with intention. “We construct our scents with a top note and a bottom note,” Freeland says. “Our scents are mostly gender neutral — we’ve only had one floral scent, and it didn’t sell well. Chris (Cozzoni) is our gardener at home, and we love flowers, but we’re not planning to develop an overpowering floral scent.”
Small batch, big results • “We do small batches of 20 bars at a time,” Cozzoni says. “Each batch is one type of soap. We pour the soap into silicone molds similar to a loaf pan. The process takes a month for the lye to cure out and for the soap to dry. We then cut the bars by hand with a knife, and we don’t polish the bars. The irregular top edge is the open end of the mold, which we like.” The small batch approach keeps quality high, but Freeland admits they’ve stumbled a few times only to trash a batch of just-made soaps.
Sales, fairs and Etsy • “We depend on our local retailers to sell our products because our full-time jobs are pretty demanding. We do a few fairs in the fall and winter when soap makes a great stocking stuffer,” Freeland says. “We sell on Etsy as well, and we’ve built a base of repeat customers, but we like that our soaps are in neighborhood stores.”
Representing • Running a side business for South Compton Soap is but another step on life’s journey for Cozzoni and Freeland. “We’ve been together 20 years,” Freeland says. “In 2014, we were married. We eloped to Hawaii in the middle of a polar vortex.” The two created a series of soaps around water and ocean themes — beach house, lighthouse, iceberg. If soap names do indeed tell stories, their list evokes two lives in full, in harmony with neighbors, nature and urban life — farmstead, coffee shop, bamboo forest, greenhouse, ski slope. Stories unfolding in the making of soaps.
South Compton Soap Co.
Makers • Chris Freeland and Chris Cozzoni
Ages • Freeland is 43; Cozzoni, 47
Family • Freeland and Cozzoni are a married couple.
Home • Tower Grove East
What they make • The two make small-batch, hand-crafted soaps in their regulated and inspected home studio.
Where to buy • Bali Cargo Co., Grove East Provisions, Kitchen House Coffee, the Porch, Alex Waldbart Florist; southcomptonsoapcompany.com
How much • $7 per bar