Buff City Soap

Buff City Soap will be located next to Hy-Vee on the Northwest Arterial in Dubuque. The store will feature its own handmade soap products.

A rapidly expanding soap company soon will open a location in one of Dubuque’s major shopping centers.

Buff City Soap aims to open in Asbury Plaza during the second week of November, according to franchise owner Chris Meyers. The business will occupy the former home of children’s clothing retailer Carter’s, which closed its doors at 2445 Northwest Arterial early this year.

For Buff City, the expansive space will serve as both a retail location and a “makery,” where employees will create handmade soaps and other products. Meyers noted that customers can view the soap-making process while visiting the store, an experience that fosters a stronger connection to the product.

“You get to see us hand-making it daily,” Meyers said. “It’s a big deal. People in Dubuque can use soap that is made in Dubuque.”

He said this up-close experience, combined with consumers’ growing desire to purchase natural products, has fueled the company’s recent meteoric growth.

The chain now has about 130 stores nationwide and will be up to around 200 by Christmas, he said.

Meyers already owns three Buff City locations in Des Moines, as well as a recently opened store in Cedar Rapids. He plans to open locations in Sioux City and Cedar Falls within the next month.

Known primarily for its plant-based soaps, Buff City sells a wide variety of other products, including bath bombs and laundry products. Buff City also allows customers to participate in making certain products, including bath bombs.

Transitioning the former Carter’s store into an adequate space for Buff City required time and resources. The Dubuque location will employ 20 to 30 people.

“We came in and did a full-blown remodel,” Meyers said. “It’s a really big store and a very cool-looking space. … Customers will have to come experience it with their own eyes.”

The majority of Asbury Plaza is owned by Cafaro Co., which presides over 18 storefronts in the vast, West End shopping center.

Joe Bell, a spokesman for Cafaro Co., said Buff City is an ideal fit for the shopping center.

“There has been a lot of interest in niche products for personal care,” he said. “It is a growing segment of retail.”

Four Cafaro-owned storefronts in Asbury Plaza remain empty. Bell noted that the closure of the Dressbarn and Pier 1 stores largely were the result of the companies’ bankruptcy proceedings. GameStop and GNC also closed stores in the shopping center amid recent struggles.

Despite battling those trends, Bell is optimistic that the economy is turning a corner and the empty plaza spaces soon will be filled.

“I think there is rising confidence overall in the direction of the economy,” he said. “On top of that, there is a lot of confidence in the strength of the economy here in the Dubuque area.”

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