Better Beauty, Made in Northern Michigan
4 local makers making products for bodies, faces, and fingernails
By Ross Boissoneau | Oct. 12, 2019
When it comes to locally produced foodstuffs, there are probably more Northern options than you could eat in a week. Same for beverages, from sodas to beer, wine, spirits, even coffee and sparkling water in a can.
That’s not the end of it. Companies from across the region are producing and selling — well, everything. That includes various skin and beauty products. From Traverse City to Harbor Springs, you can make your skin soft, your nails glittery, your hair silky and shiny, thanks to people and companies like those we profile below.
Northern Nail Polish
Start with the glitter (of course). Finding a way to avoid the harmful ingredients yet still embrace her showy side was what set KC Springberg on her path toward nail nirvana. She’d read about how toxic nail polish was and decided she could do better. That led her to long days and late nights reading, researching, and formulating non-toxic versions of a polish that is “all holographic, shimmery, and sparkly, because that’s what I liked.”
Soon friends were clamoring for the product, including matte colors. “So I made a whole line of that too,” she said, eventually selling all of them on Etsy. “I did that for almost five years, then I started going to arts and craft shows, when I started to make more solid colors that were inspired by Michigan things.”
She now sells directly from her website, www.NorthernNailPolish.com, as well as several local establishments, including Eclectic Avenue, in Interlochen; Relish, in the Traverse City Warehouse District; and My Secret Stash and HNM Wellness, both in downtown Traverse City.
Each season she comes up with new colors. This fall, they include Cider & Donuts (medium mauve brick crème), Oktoberfest (shimmering copper bronze), Apple Picking (deep berry pink crème) and Autumn Color Tour, a multi-chromatic nail polish that changes colors from brown to red, blue, and even a slight green shimmer, depending on the angle and lighting.
She said she’s taken care to make the polish long-lasting, and she has also developed a natural soy-oil based nail polish remover. “It's so cool because of the toxin-free, vegan formula,” Springberg said of her products.
Great Lakes Bath and Body
If necessity is the mother of invention, connections to a ready market could be the aunt. “I had skin issues,” said Lynn Rodenroth, and because of those issues, she began making her own soap some two decades ago.
She and her husband, Rob, were also veterans of the hotel industry, so when she began sharing her soap and other products, it was only natural that the two looked at the wholesale side as well as retail. “Our first accounts were in the hotel industry. Rob and I worked together [in the hotel industry] and this has been a spinoff,” she said.
Quite a spinoff. Great Lakes Bath and Body has been selling soaps, bath fizzies, face and body lotions, soaking salts, and even soy candles in downtown Traverse City since 2013. One of the things that sets the company apart is that its production facility and retail operation are in the same location. The back half of the store in the City Opera House building is for production, while the front half is the retail side. “It’s part of the brand. Customers can see it being made,” said Rodenroth.
That makes for a give-and-take between customers and staff that other stores and products can’t duplicate. She said the company staff can help customers determine what they need as well as want. “The [staff] can answer questions — the ingredients, how it’s made.”
As to that “how,” Rodenroth said the products are created with plant-based ingredients using simple formulas. She should know; Rodenroth is a certified Master Soapmaker.
Ann and Mark Bongiorno were veterans of the consumer products industry. So when they saw an opportunity to purchase a company based in their hometown of Traverse City, they jumped at it, purchasing TruSelf Organics in 2016 from its founders. Since then the couple has expanded the company’s product line and marketing efforts.
“People shop globally — 25 to 30 percent of our orders are from outside the U.S.,” said Mark. While the market is global, the production is local. “We make most of our products here in Traverse City.”
Those products run the gamut of skin care, from detoxifying masks to lip scrub, shampoo, shave cream, even bamboo products like brushes and cloths. “Our motto is ‘No bad stuff. Ever.’ We use as many organic ingredients as possible, but keep costs in line,” said Bongiorno.
Locally some of the company’s products are available at Edson Farms, but Bongiorno said more than 95 percent are sold online. That allows the couple to live where they want and make a living doing what they want. “My wife is from Suttons Bay. We moved here in 2006.
“We’re passionate about skin care. Skin is the biggest organ, and like everybody, we’re conscious about what goes in and on our bodies.”
Frye Wildcrafted Bath and Body
Bridgette Frye didn’t set out to make body lotions and the like. She was happy in her chosen career as a massage therapist — at least, until she took a close look at the ingredients in the items she was using in massage. “I wanted something safe for my clients and myself,” she said.
That led to some R&D, courtesy of her dad’s man cave. He has a woodstove in it, which Frye utilized to melt and mix various oils and medicaments. “I turned his man cave into a science lab,” she said with a laugh.
Those experiments led to a line of products under the Frye Wildcrafted Bath and Body label: organic whipped body butters, lotions, bath soaks, lip balm, lip scrubs, etc. All told, she offers nearly 30 different products, with more in development, including a “TSA-friendly” hard lotion.
Frye said she uses four primary ingredients — coconut oil, hemp oil, coconut butter and shea butter — along with beeswax, lavender, sea salt, and even cherry pit powder, sourcing locally as much as she can. “The cherry pit powder, which is used as an exfoliant, is from a farm in Traverse City. The lavender is from Lavender Hill Farm in Boyne City, beeswax from Bliss Bee in Bliss,” she said.
The business only started last year, with Frye’s first foray at the Harbor Springs Farm Market. Frye makes all her products all in small batches, and sells them online through a Facebook page (an e-commerce website is coming) and at her spa in Harbor Springs.