Joshua Hess is a familiar face at the Perry Farmers Market and the International City Farmer’s Market in Warner Robins.
He’s also known by those who frequent the indoor kiosks near the food court at the Base Exchange at Robins Air Force Base.
Hess, 41, is the owner of The Sassy Alpaca, which specializes in homemade natural skin care and bath and shower products.
In 2019, he launched his business with a vision of selling his wares in person at farmers markets and online through his website.
Now, Hess is opening a storefront Feb. 4 in the Ingleside Village at 2731 Ingleside Ave., Suite A, in Macon. With some of the fixtures still needing to be shipped, he plans to hold a grand opening when everything’s just right — hopefully by Mother’s Day.
Hess has been making soaps since he was 9 — a skill he first learned on his father’s farm in Spokane, Washington.
He moved to Warner Robins when he was a teenager to live with his mother. Over the years, he’s perfected his craft.
“We use the natural ingredients — the certified organic, RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil certified) — and we don’t use any kind of additives so there’s no preservatives. There’s no binders. There’s no extra colors,” he said. “All the scents are essential oils, or they’re derived from the herbs directly.
“Some of these actually have raw herbs in them. In a couple of months, we’re going to have more of our fruit soaps. They ran out this year. They’ll have things like blueberries, strawberries in them, which will give them a scent as well as having antioxidants for the skin.”
His fruit soaps are the most popular.
Hess also handcrafts a host of other products such as bath bombs, hand lotions and shower steamers.
Shower steamers create scents that have helpful properties, Hess said. For example, he recommends his peppermint steamer for headaches and his lavender steamer for sleep and calmness.
Hess also likes to experiment.
With the popularity of Boba tea, he’s been working on a soap using the cassava plant from which the tapioca starch is extracted to make the Boba pearls at the bottom of the drink.
Hess is using the roots dried out and ground down into a flour-like consistency and wants the soap to produce a good lather, perfect for shaving and bathing, he said.
“It’s just one of the things I’m experimenting with,” Hess said. “I experiment a lot with soaps. I try soap formulas from around the world.
“For example, we have a Nabulsi. This is based on the soap in the Middle East that uses olive oil, goat milk and honey, as well as Dead Sea salt, and it’s a lot like a castile soap. But it’s softer and has a lower pH. And we get a lot of people who are going through cancer treatments who use that on their skin because it’s gentler and easier.”
When he opens his storefront, Hess plans to continue selling his wares at the farmers markers and BX. He expects to rotate between those venues and his storefront. His wife, Sherry, will man the shop the Saturday mornings the storefront is open.
At the shop, Hess plans to make all of his products except his soaps — which require controlled environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity. He’ll continue to make those at their Macon home.
The storefront affords him the opportunity of being able to work on his products while customers are in the shop, maximizing time while showcasing his craft.
He was originally looking for a space for only production and storage. But he and his wife came upon the Ingleside Village storefront that had more space at a lower cost than other spaces they’d considered only for storage and production.
And that led to the decision to open a storefront, Hess said.
Down the stairs between the Benjamin Moore paint store buildings in Ingleside Village, the storefront also is ideal for storing his wares because it’s a renovated cellar that’s cold and dry, Hess said.
Hess also plans to offer consignment items such as homemade candles and may open the shop to other craft vendors to utilize parts of his space from time to time.
The shop is located near The West Collective, ”a wellness boutique specializing in massage therapy, CBD and hemp products, aromatherapy supplies, apothecary items and high quality glass art,” according to the boutique’s Facebook page.
Parking is behind the shop and can be accessed via Corbin Avenue.
Hess also plans to continue to offer his products through The Sassy Alpaca website.
‘Autism owned and run’
On both his website and a chalkboard sign outside his booth at the International City Farmers’ Market, Hess describes his business as “autism owned and run.”
“There are a lot of people with autism that think they’re limited and there’s a lot of parents who have children with autism that think there are caps on how they can live their life; that there’s a ceiling on their potential,” Hess said. “They just don’t know that there’s things that can be done beyond just getting by day-to-day.”
Hess chose entrepreneurship.
Inspiration for the name
There’s a story behind how Hess came up with the name of his business.
He and his wife were having a lively debate over the direction the business should go in. Just so happens, she was in the middle of a bath at the time.
At one point, she went under the water and came up with bubbles all over her hair.
“I told her, ‘You look like a sassy alpaca.’ ‘’
Later, it occurred to Hess that The Sassy Alpaca would make a great name for the business.
When sharing the story about the name, Hess said, “My wife is probably going to kill me.”
Operating hours, which may vary, are expected to be posted on Facebook and at the store. Next month, the store is expected to be open Feb. 4-9 and Feb. 18-23 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, from 4-8 p.m. on Sunday and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday. The store may also be opened by appointment.