Walking through the shops at the Saltmills Plaza where fashion, food, and art abound, the soothing aroma of homemade candles, soaps, and bath bombs blended with essential oils like rosemary and lemongrass wafts distinctly above all the other scents in the environment to guide you directly into the newly opened doors of The Studio by Island Organics.
Like a sensory mix between a bakery, florist, and perfume shop rolled into one, the towering wall of soaps as beautiful as they appear delicious sends your senses into overdrive. Surely, the warm cinnamon loaf topped with roasted apples being cut by hand into slices by the friendly lady who welcomes you into the store is edible? No? Well clearly, this is a very special kind of shopping experience.
Arlene Hall and her husband Zeke, who hails from the island of Middle Caicos, have four daughters. “The more we wanted a boy the more girls we got!,” Arlene laughs as she puts on her white coat, gloves, and protective eyewear to begin the delicate process of creating a bath bomb from scratch.
The picturesque shop and rustic back-of-house studio where she works is a projection of a compassionate journey that began when her girls were little, she explains.
“My third daughter struggled with psoriasis early on and couldn’t find relief from chemically based pharmaceutical products. Using old island remedies I learned from my Grandmother, who had always used local bushes for ointments and body soothing ache relief, I started making a soap to relieve the itchiness. It worked!
“Family and friends started asking for their own product and I started really researching, developing, and passionately creating more and more with local bush and essential oils.”
Sometime in 2014, Island Organics was born. What began as a kitchen made lab project combining well known medicinal elements that grow on the islands like Aloe vera, neem, moringa, cactus pear, purslane, and local sage with internationally sourced oils like eucalyptus, peppermint, and sweet orange quickly snowballed.
“I started thinking of it as a business and developing it as a brand going from just small scale experiments to hundreds of potential varieties.”
At the time of opening in December 2019, The Studio by Island Organics featured 65 different bars of soap, its own in-house sun screen, pain salves, mosquito repellants, bath bombs, and candles all made with local plants and meticulously sourced essential oils in a business owned and operated in the family style.
Arlene makes the Island Organics product, husband Zeke built the shelves and handles the physical labor, eldest daughter Kishanta creates the handmade jewelry and candles, second eldest Zekeya creates the labels, Ebenique handles visual merchandising and design, and the baby, Arleigha works the storefront.
Kishanta says of the experience she shares with her family in running The Studio, “Our message is focused on encouraging clients to move away from products that contain harsh chemicals. We work as a family to help bring holistic living and natural lifestyle products sourced from our local plants and the best international ingredients to the island. Doing it together makes it even more meaningful and yes, fun!”
Story & Images: Dominique Rolle/Caya Hico Media