After walking in the cold December temperatures down Stafford’s Main Street, it was refreshing to enter Green Ohana. The brand new store, directly across the street from J&D’s Pub, is warm and inviting. From the repurposed furniture pieces displaying the vast range of eco-friendly products to the scent of the essential oils colliding in the atmosphere, Green Ohana is a breath of fresh air.
Started by Dorrie and Adam Doolittle, who you may know as the owners of Basic Bars Soap, Green Ohana opened its doors for business in November. The small shop has allowed the couple to showcase their all-natural soap while adding new products to their offerings.
While Basic Bars Soap was their first venture, it was a passion that was stumbled upon almost accidentally. Dorrie explained, “We started doing soap for a couple of reasons. One of them was that we had a hard time finding soap for myself. I worked in an industry where there was a lot of chemical exposure and I became allergic to sodium lauryl sulfate, which is the major sudsing agent in almost everything. So I had to use handcrafted soap.”
Even after purchasing handcrafted soap that avoided sodium lauryl sulfate, Dorrie found that she still had issues with breaking out and rashes. The Doolittles found that handcrafted soaps often contain synthetic materials. “We decided, to help me out, we would start creating soap. We took some soap making classes and started producing. We produced for years at home just strictly for ourselves. The end result is a product that’s mostly organic.”
After creating several batches and tweaking the product to perfect it, the Doolittles ended up with a lot of extra product. “When you make soap, it’s not like you can make just one bar of soap. You make it sort of how you make a batch of brownies, but then you end up with a whole batch.” The couple gave the excess product away to friends and family as gifts, and they encouraged Dorrie and Adam to start a business. “For years, people encouraged us like ‘this is really great soap, you should do something with this, you should sell it’ and eventually we thought ‘yeah, maybe we should.’”
After living with the struggle of not being able to find products that worked for Dorrie, it was evident that there was a need for natural products that was not being fulfilled. “If we had a super hard time finding clean, organic ingredients in soap, then others are having that same challenge too and I’m not the only one who is sensitive to that extent. We started making it and it has been absolutely phenomenal how much we have grown in such a short amount of time.”
Customers have found and enjoyed Basic Bars Soap in local shops such as Mill Pond Country Store, BellaNess and Cozy Corner Boutique, all located in Stafford. Now, as their business grows and flourishes, the couple has opened Green Ohana, their next adventure.
The name “Green Ohana” embodies everything Dorrie and Adam are all about. Ohana is a Hawaiian word meaning “friends, family, community, house and home” interchangeably. As Dorrie explained, “Green Ohana came from our love for Hawaii. We’re big Hawaii fans. We love how natural, pure and clean things are out there. So, Green Ohana. Green meaning eco-friendly, and then ohana meaning our community and family. In Hawaiian culture, your family is your home, so that’s where it ties into home and house too.”
Dorrie is happy to be a part of the Stafford community. “There are so many things I like about being a local business. One is the community. I like working in Stafford, particularly on Main Street. We have a really great community of business owners that are all about helping each other out and promoting each other and helping each other grow. I think that’s pretty special. That doesn’t happen everywhere, everyone having interest in the growth of others.”
Dorrie and Adam carry a wide range of eclectic products for those who are looking for more sustainable ways to support the environment, and affordably. The items lining their shop include essential oil candles, cleaning products, laundry products, vegan dryer balls, natural toothpaste, jewelry by Stafford local JoHa Designs, chopsticks, skin salves, balms, reusable snack and sandwich bags, tea towels, reusable napkins, natural chewing gum and natural breath mints. The Green Ohana also offers bamboo toothbrushes, an item that can truly reduce the footprint on Earth. “Bamboo toothbrushes are phenomenal because plastic toothbrushes are a huge environmental issue. They say it takes about 4,000 years for them to start breaking down and you think about how many toothbrushes you go through. They’re absolutely phenomenal.”
Many may not think of the detrimental effects of plastic toothbrushes on the environment, and the same can be said of plastic zip lock bags. “Zip lock bags are a huge problem if you think about how many a family of four uses in a week sending their kids to school. If you had reusable ones that can go into the laundry and what not, then we’re cutting down on the amount of plastic that’s in our oceans and killing our sea life. That’s one of the things we’re passionate about. When people come in, we can show them that there are eco-friendly alternatives to things even when they didn’t think that there was a challenge.”
Dorrie and Adam keep this in mind with everything sold in Green Ohana, top to bottom. Even the packaging on their bars of soap takes the planet into consideration. “We are dedicated to being eco-friendly and go far for it. We just did our new packaging and we made sure it was made of 100% recyclable material. We even went as far as doing soy-based inks instead of the traditional commercial inks on them.” The tape securing the packaging around the soap is also biodegradable, making their earth-friendly packaging good for the world around us.
“We live, unfortunately, in a pretty toxic world and I think we’re starting to wake up on that. We want to be able to offer people alternatives. Or for people like myself who are chemically sensitive, they can come into the shop and go ‘Okay, almost everything in here, if not everything in here, I can use.”
When Go Local visited Green Ohana, both Dorrie and Adam passionately shared with us information about the dangers of chemicals and the benefits of natural products. The knowledge and personal experience they share gives customers an experience that would be missed in a department store. “When you step in here, you have somebody who is knowledgeable about all of the products that are in the shop and we can give great suggestions. We can also educate you top to bottom about where this product was produced and what is in each product. We are a very transparent company and we want to make sure everybody feels comfortable with the products that they’re using.”
Dorrie continued, “Every single one of the products in our shop is tested through us first. We spend our time talking to the manufacturers and having those products in our homes first. I can stand behind everything that’s in this shop and give personal experience as to how good it is.”
All of the products sold by Green Ohana have no synthetic fragrance or synthetic dyes and are produced in an eco-friendly manner. Dorrie shared that Green Ohana has a strong vegan following, which has led them to carry several vegan items.
The shop also carries an organic skincare line made with food-grade ingredients. Dorrie shared, “The producer of that particular line, her theory is ‘if you can’t eat it, you shouldn’t put it on your skin,’ because your skin absorbs everything you put on it.”
Dorrie happily shared, “We use organic everywhere we can. The only time we don’t use an organic product is if we literally can’t find an organic option for it. If there’s an organic option for it, we have it. If you’re looking for eco-friendly, you know when you come in here that everything is eco-friendly. The fact that we are also mostly local and Connecticut makers means that the carbon footprint is coming down, too. Someone who’s really thinking about that stuff is going to appreciate that.”
The shop plans to celebrate their opening with an event in the coming months, but for now, Green Ohana is getting settled in. “I feel like we’ve really lucked out in being in the spot that we are at, at the time that we are here. Stafford is starting to really boom with an art scene and people who are very conscious about environmental issues. Being able to work with other business owners and being able to be one-on-one with our customers is the best. It’s the personal connections that I get to have all the way around.”
Green Ohana has become a part of the creator community with their involvement in Arts on Main. On the second Friday of every month between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., Stafford hosts Arts on Main, an evening where the local shops stay open late and the streets come alive with art. “There may be music out in the streets or maybe music in some of the places and maybe a local artist inside some of the boutiques selling their wares, things of that nature. Every month during Arts on Main, we change and feature a new local artist and the artist will be there that day. It gives them the chance for exposure. The whole entire Main Street is about building the community and trying to help each other out, even if they’re not a local business owner.”
Green Ohana will continue to plant its roots in Stafford and grow as the business enters 2019. They plan to change the art on the walls to focus on local artists. Dorrie shared, “You should be seeing from us in 2019 more household products that are nontoxic that we personally have found a challenge to find out in the community and therefore, we are working to make them.”
“We all want to do our part in making good choices and making sure the environment is clean for the next generations to come.”
Watching Adam make Dorrie smile while she posed with the products she’s proud to carry, and listening to the couple discuss their upcoming holiday vacation, it’s clear that the Doolittles are one happy Ohana, and that they are just getting started leaving a natural impression on the maker community of Stafford.
Regularly, Green Ohana is open Thursdays 12-4, Fridays 11-4 and weekends 11-4. Green Ohana will be open limited hours through Jan. 15 and will only be open on weekends 12-4. For more information, visit www.basicbarssoap.com/green-ohana