The smaller-sized Soapy Soap bars that Sue-May distributed amongst her neighbors

We always love receiving tips and reader emails, but a couple of weeks ago we received one that was particularly compelling with the title ‘Random Act of Kindness in the ‘Loin’. It was a lengthy, but here’s the excerpt that really caught our attention:

The ‘Loin is so much more than what meets the surface and is ultimately why I decided to live here (and why I read the blog). In fact, I have experienced several acts of random kindness that have really impacted me including one today that I wanted to share.

I was on my way out of my apartment to pick up a pizza and watch the game (go Giants) when I stepped on something odd. I bent down to pick up the item and read the note attached to it. It reads:

Hey neighbor,
I’m a craft soap maker and I have some extra bars that I would like to share with you.
Enjoy!
Sue May

This came attached to a bar of Lavender and Rosemary soap.

As I made my way down stairs I noticed that every single door in the building had a bar of soap sitting in front of it with the same note.

To learn a bit more I checked out the Soapy Soap website and learned that Sue May is based here in the city, does not use any unnatural colors or scents and uses environmentally friendly business practices.

Obviously, I was very excited and immediately contacted Sue May via the Soapy Soaps website asking to hear more about her company. A couple of days later, I found myself in soap heaven, gazing at and inhaling from the dozens of different hand-crafted soap combinations she makes in her Tenderloin kitchen.

That day Sue May was preparing to package several cute, little soaps that she had custom-made for a friend’s event: starfish, flowers, moons, leafs, citrus carpels, etc… She told me that only a few days earlier some bakery had ordered a hundred cupcake-shaped pink soaps, and that basically they can do anything people can think of in soap form – not just in terms of shapes but also ingredients.

Sue May is originally from the East Bay, but spent several years in Canada before settling down in San Francisco about a year ago. She chose the Tenderloin for the (allegedly) lower rent, but mainly because of its central location close to the farmers’ market, the main library, museums and within walking distance to any place she wants to go. In spite of all the sketchy action happening under her window on a daily basis, she says that she’s liking the neighborhood more and more. Although Sue May is a software engineer by trade, she’s been making soap for almost 20 years for friends and relatives since she learned its secrets in a chemistry class back in high school.

Some regular soap bars ready to be wrapped, and special shapes for a custom order

Morgan, Sue May’s sister-in-law based in LA, learned soap-making from her and really enjoyed it. So when she found herself jobless around the same time as Sue-May, she convinced her to create a joint soap company. Thus was born Soapy Soaps two months ago. They sell mostly online through their Etsy store, but lately they’ve been getting a lot of customers through in-person word of mouth and direct marketing such as Sue May leaving soap samples to every neighbor in her building. Also, they have plans to be selling at crafts fairs and possibly at farmers’ markets both in LA and San Francisco. If you’re a Tenderloiner, chances are you might be able to pick up the soaps yourself personally (and if you’re lucky, she might give you some samples like the ones pictured below which she usually adds to every order).

A variety of samples and some beeswax regular bars

Being a regular user of all-natural personal care products, after meeting Sue May talk about her Soapy Soaps, naturally I had to try them. Call me an alcoholic, but I was very curious about their wine-based soaps (apparently they have a very rich lather), but those are Morgan’s specialty and so not available in the San Francisco ‘lab’. I ended up going home with a bar of white tea and ginger (because I love tea), and one of avocado, lemon and verbena because the avocado comes from a beautiful tree in Sue May’s backyard. After using the latter for a few days, I’m enjoying it so much that I think I’ll have to say goodbye to Dr Bronner’s (which is actually more expensive than Soapy Soaps).