At Detroit City Limits, we regularly profile a small business vendor at Detroit’s Eastern Market, focusing on some of the lesser-known vendors and products. This week: The Old White House.
Vendor: Theresa Hein
Products: Eco-friendly lavender laundry soap and cleaning supplies
Location: Produced in Eagle, Mich., vending on Adelaide Street at Eastern Market on Saturdays
Q&A with Theresa Hein
DCL: How did you get started?
TH: Our son went to the University of Michigan for Environmental Science, and he’d send me documentaries on pollutants and chemicals in our food and cleaning supplies. I watched those and decided I wanted to make my own laundry soap. I tried a few recipes that I saw popping up but I didn’t care for any of them, so I tweaked the recipe until I came up with my own. The laundry detergent is non-sudsing, clean-rinsing and concentrated. You can use one tablespoon in a high-efficiency washer, and a pound does 32 loads of laundry. All of our ingredients are septic-safe and pet safe. I gave it to family and friends to try at first, and everybody loved it. In 2010, I went to our little farmers market in Portland, Mich. and started selling by the scoop, putting the powder into paper lunch sacks. I got a great reaction from everybody there, and then I started slowly adding products, like our lavender linen spray and natural, calming dryer sachets.
DCL: What are your most popular products? And why lavender?
TH: Our sachets are our most popular and recognizable products. Many people already keep sachets in closets or in drawers. The laundry soap and linen spray are right behind the sachets in popularity, and people also like our kitchen and bath cleaner and carpet freshener. Lavender has these calming properties, and most all of us have a connection to the scent. Customers tell us that “My mom or grandmother always has lavender sachets around.” Lavender is a good all-around essential oil for cleaning, because it’s relaxing while you clean, and it also kills germs.
DCL: How did you get involved with Eastern Market?
TH: We do the farmers market in Lansing, and Terry Campbell, who was one of Eastern Market’s managers at that time, came by my booth and approached us about being a vendor at Eastern Market. We filled out an application, and our first time vending there was our first time ever at Eastern Market. That place has done so much for the growth of The Old White House. They gave us that push to know that we could do more, and now we’re in more than 65 stores nationwide. Eastern Market has the best energy. The people we meet on a weekly basis become friends. Our customers sell our products for us. They’ll see someone stop at the booth and say, ‘You have to get yourself some.’ And all the small business people are so encouraging, helping each other. Eastern Market has become our home away from home.
DCL: What do you like about Detroit?
TH: The people, for sure. You start talking to people who work down there, and you feel that positive energy. What they want for their city and what they’re doing to make that happen is just so energizing. In my small town, people ask if we feel safe in Detroit, and I tell them to just turn off the news and go visit.
~Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in southeast Michigan. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.