A natural bath and body product store has been quietly expanding in downtown Milwaukie.
Four years ago, Branda Tiffany started a small storefront on 21st Avenue for her workshop making Molly Muriel products. Now she's rebranding the brick-and-mortar side of her business as the Milwaukie Apothecary.
Herbs, base oils, shea butter, candle supplies and other bulk ingredients for "makers" will soon bear the Milwaukie Apothecary name. "Makers" for Tiffany are a broad category of "anyone who wants to make items like lip balm, tea blends, face masks and bath bombs."
Molly Muriel products made in Milwaukie (premade soaps, balms, lotions, bath salts, scented oils, etc.) largely go to New Seasons, along with many of the herb shops and boutiques in Portland. Tiffany says that 95 percent of her 15-year-old business remains wholesale, although the Milwaukie Apothecary store has seen an increase in foot traffic with the opening of the Orange Line light-rail line in 2015.
The small storefront originally had mostly Molly Muriel products, but didn't see much business initially. But eventually doubling the amount of space has allowed Tiffany to get other local products and approximately triple the number of Eugene-based Mountain Rose bulk herbs.
"Per city requirements, it had to have a storefront, so I opened up the apothecary," Tiffany said.
When a neighbor moved out about three years ago, Tiffany took over his lease. After about another year she obtained the city permits to expand into the additional space. There is now about 900 square feet each of production and retail space.
Molly Muriel was Tiffany's dog who died in September at age 15. A DNA test revealed the dog was a mixture of eight different breeds, everything from a Great Dane to a Pekingese. With one blue eye and one brown eye, Molly Muriel looked mostly like a German shepherd. She came with the name Molly, and the dog's Muriel "middle name" was assigned in honor of Tiffany's grandmother.
"She was a puppy when I started the business and my inspiration," Tiffany said. "She lives on with the name of this company."
Tiffany's ethical basis for her company is simple: Natural is better, and chemicals aren't necessary to make great beauty and health products. When we wash our faces with chemical cleansers, for example, they not only get into our bodies but they also go down the drain and affect the environment.
"One of my passions is to take chemicals out of our environment, meaning our products, our garbage and our water system," Tiffany said. "We as a society have blindly accepted that we need chemicals in products to make them work, but that isn't true."
To educate others to help achieve that end, Tiffany tries to make the crafts associated with her products accessible to anyone by offering affordable classes, priced between $15 and $25 per person. She organizes a monthly candle-making workshop, plus classes by request on fire-cider and elderberry-syrup making; deodorant and toothpaste making; or essential oil making.
"If you can get six to 12 people together, we'll schedule a class," Tiffany said. "The classes happen right here, and they're really fun."
You can check her website under classes and see what she'll be offering in 2018.
Branda Tiffany makes products for more than 100 retail stores, largely on the West Coast, but also in Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Wisconsin and West Virginia. Go to mollymuriel.com for a complete list of local purveyors who stock Molly Muriel products.
Find the apothecary: 11049 S.E. 21st Ave, Milwaukie