Muncie Origins: Debbie Acree sells homemade soap to help eczema
Welcoming customers into a room full of warming scents from lavender to vanilla, Debbie’s Handmade Soap in downtown Muncie offers its customers a new way of lathering their skin with the shop’s handmade soap.
Debbie Acree, the owner of Debbie’s Handmade Soap, was first introduced to handmade soap in 1999 when she attended a retreat for her daughter who had eczema.
After meeting a soap maker at the retreat, Acree asked for her handmade soap recipe.
“[The recipe] was nothing like I was wanting, so after about three years of working and studying, I found what I was really wanting,” Acree said. “My end goal was having a bar that would help eczema and skin problems and would lather. So about three years after, I finally [had] a soap I wanted, and it worked.”
Once Acree created her own handmade soap recipe, using 50 percent olive oil so the soap would lather, she began selling her soap out of her home and at craft shows.
“I started having so many people stop by my house,” Acree said. “Then, I realized I needed to have somewhere that was commercial so I could have regular hours for people to shop.”
In 2016, Acree said her daughter noticed an empty building on South Walnut Street. Although the front of the building was torn up at the time, Acree said it didn’t stop her from seeing the potential the building had.
During the moving process from her home to her new storefront, Acree said most everything in the shop had to be dollied in from almost a block away because of the street’s rough condition in front of the store.
“One of the biggest things that stuck out about us moving in here was my bathtub,” Acree said. “So when we were moving in here, we had it on wheels and wheeled it on the street. We had people passing us. Some people had just gotten lunch at Vera Mae’s, and they said, ‘This is the craziest thing we have seen in Muncie — a bathtub coming down the sidewalk.’”
After she moved the bathtub — a decoration piece to hold bath bombs — and the rest of her supplies, Acree was able to open her shop during the First Thursday event in October 2016.
Instead of the expected 10 customers Acree thought she would see on opening day, she said there was little room left to squeeze into the packed store.
Since opening her shop, Acree has expanded to sell more than 64 different fragrances that she has shipped to every state in the U.S. To keep up with her large market, Acree said she created wooden soap molds, which make 1,000 bars of soap at a time.
Michaela Moles, an employee, helps Acree run the store and cut soap.
“My favorite thing [about working at Debbie’s Handmade Soap] is probably getting to meet all the people,” Moles said. “Just getting to hear how many customers love her soap, and hearing how it’s helped their skin — it’s been neat to see her client base, and just working with soap it’s a nice atmosphere. It’s relaxing to do.”
Moles said she has seen Acree’s soap work in the lives of others because it helped clear her sister’s eczema and the tea tree oil soap helped clear her acne.
“It’s really cool to see how the soap works,” Moles said. “You know, you hear all about these types of soap that would work best on your face, but this is actually all natural. It’s really cool to witness that.”