With the statewide stay-at-home mandate entering its fourth week in Missouri, small businesses like the Soap Refill Station need to get creative when it comes to getting products to customers.
Owner Anne Dezort and her boyfriend Adam McKay opened the Soap Refill Station just off the square in downtown Springfield in July 2018. The coronavirus outbreak and following stay-at-home mandate has created some unique challenges for small business owners like Dezort. For one, the sickness has completely halted foot traffic for the store, which prompted the beginning of a new delivery service.
“A lot of our time has switched from unlocking the doors and welcoming in warm bodies to unlocking the doors, making a pot of coffee and sitting down to our computers to respond to all of the emails and delivery orders,” Dezort said. “We are in the shop all day — regular hours for now — taking delivery orders over the phone, responsibly refilling containers that folks are bringing into the shop or dropping off curbside.”
It’s easy to imagine getting pizza delivered, but getting soap delivered? It may sound strange, but Dezort said her delivery drivers’ routines aren’t much different from food delivery.
“I guess the main difference is that we are only delivering Monday, Wednesday and Friday, so you kind of have to plan ahead and make a list from our menu online,” Dezort said.
Chris Wilson, a Springfield resident and design manager for Bass Pro Shops, has shopped with the Soap Refill Station for six months. He recently ordered dishwashing soap for delivery and posted about it on his Instagram story on April 7.
The picture shows Wilson’s front porch with a bottle of soap near the front door. “Another doorstep delivery from @getomosoap!” read the caption. The Soap Refill Station shared Wilson’s picture onto their own story.
“Since the shelter-in-place order, we’ve had home deliveries for laundry soap and dishwasher gel,” Wilson said. “It’s been kind of a life saver.
“The less we have to go to a busy store right now, the better. And we try to support local (businesses) as much as we can.”
When Wilson ordered his soap, he filled out an online order at getmosoap.com and completed the payment the next morning over the phone.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “I especially like how they text you a picture of your soap safely on your porch when it’s been delivered – contactless shopping!”
Wilson said he’d absolutely recommend the service.
Dezort said it’s hard to gauge how many delivery orders the Soap Refill Station receives on an average day because the service is still new, but the numbers are well below averages when the store was open.
“I think we had two or three the first day, which we were so excited about!” Dezort said. Now the store gets more than ten orders each day.
For Wilson, shopping local is one of many priorities. At the front of his conscience is his single-use plastic consumption – and one of the main selling points for the Soap Refill Station is that they offer an opportunity for customers to reduce their carbon footprint. That’s a primary motivation for Wilson to shop there.
“Plastic is a problem – particularly single-use plastic,” Wilson said. “I like to fish, and when I’m on different bodies of water, I see all the trash that makes it into our waterways. So I’m stoked to have this option to cut back on waste while supporting local. It’s a win-win!
“Many places are pivoting to curbside pickup or deliver – and I’m sure that’s not easy. But they had an additional challenge of how to handle the containers everyone usually brings in to refill.”
Delivery has come with its own set of challenges for Dezort and her employees. She said she’s learned the importance of remaining flexible and paying attention to the customers. Ultimately, the decision to begin offering delivery services was an obvious one.
“We sell something every single person uses: soap,” Dezort said. “(And) if the goal is to keep as many people at home as possible but you also need to pay your bills, you must go to the people.”
Everything in the shop is available for delivery, even if it isn’t listed on the website.
In order to maintain the tradition of low-waste at the Soap Refill Station, Dezort had to get creative. She uses reusable plastic bottles as “delivery vessels” to get products to customers.
On April 16, @getmosoap explained the delivery vessels on their Instagram story.
“Think of these containers as the middle man,” said Soap Refill Station employee Shelby Nelson. “So the idea is that, whenever you place your order, we will put the product into one of our delivery vessels, whichever size you ordered. And then you will use these vessels to refill the containers that you already have, and then we will collect these delivery vessels on your next delivery. So you’re not actually keeping these containers, and when we bring them back, we sanitize them and put them back in the loop so it is a closed-loop delivery system.”
Dezort said she wanted to keep the shopping experience as normal as possible, especially if it means keeping daily life more low-waste.
“It definitely puts strain on our hearts to see all of the single-use waste accumulating through all of this,” Dezort said. “It's a shame because I feel like we have all come so far the past few years with finally remembering to bring our dang reusable shopping bags, refillable coffee mugs, and to-go vessels. And now they are sending us back to our cars if we show up with a reusable bag at the grocery stores.”