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A love story in Barton: Essie’s Barton Beauty Bar

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Grandma moved slowly across the old wooden porch. Swish, swish, swish went the straw broom.


Her head down, a light blue scarf covering her hair was fastened in a small knot under her chin.  The porch creaked ever so slightly under grandma’s light weight. Swish, swish, swish.


And then in a flurry the screen door opened and Essie cleared the porch and the steps in two large bounds. She hit the grass running and quickly tried to stop even as her momentum continued to carry her forward.


“Oh my gosh grandma I’m so sorry,” said Essie holding a hand to her mouth as she returned to the porch – reaching out to touch grandma on the shoulder. “I thought you were still asleep. What are you doing up so early?”


Grandma stared. It unnerved Essie for a split second. “Grandma…” said Essie, her voice rising an octave. “Are you OK?”


“Sweet girl… where are you off in such a hurry,” she said.


Essie relaxed a little and took time to breathe. “Grandma I’m launching my new soap today,” said Essie. “I’ve been watching you and learning and now I’m doing it. I’m making it and I’m going to sell it.”


There was so much enthusiasm in Essie’s voice.


“That’s nice,” said Grandma, in a reassuring fashion. And she returned to her sweeping. Eyes down; content.


Essie was off again like a shot. She scrambled down the hill onto Main Street and headed past the West Bend Theatre marquee with her eyes set on the old barbershop building on the corner. Essie entered the side door. The tin ceiling and large windows were the same as years gone by, however the barber had left many moons ago and Century Farmhouse Soaps now made itself home.


Owner Ann Marie Craig was already busy in back.

“Sorry I’m late,” said Essie as she pulled her hair back and slipped on an apron.

“Glasses my dear,” said Ann Marie. “Don’t forget the glasses.”


Essie and Ann Marie got along like fast friends. Essie felt at home in the shop. She had known Ann Marie for years as their families went back several generations.


Never though did she think she’d be collaborating on a project of this magnitude with Ann Marie nor did she ever in her wildest dreams imagine she’d be the face of her own soap.



“The artwork came in the other day,” said Ann Marie. “You’re just going to love it.”


Essie sat down and placed the weighty cardboard box on her lap and slowly pulled back the lid and then the parchment paper. “Essie says,” she whispered as she pulled out the card.


“Trading cards with Essie’s tips for a better life.” She read aloud as if hearing herself talk would make the whole thing seem more real.



“I already had May clear off a spot on the front table in the store,” said Ann Marie. “My favorite line is ‘Clever girls use Essie’s Barton Beauty Bar every day! That right there is going to make the soap just fly off the shelves.”


Ann Marie was just about as excited as Essie. The pair had been cooking up a soap-making plan for months.


Essie brought in parts from grandma’s recipe and Ann Marie offered a guiding hand with traditional standards including filtered rainwater and natural scents along with essential plant oils.


The idea of enclosing various trading cards with beauty secrets was something Ann Marie suggested.  The collector cards offered unique beauty tips from the 1940s.  Things like running a line of coal up the back of your leg if you don’t have stockings for the evening.


Or, one of the trends that was all the rage in the 1940’s was to completely shave off your eyebrows and “then draw back on using charcoal to create a full-brow affect.”


Essie didn’t know why Ann Marie got such a kick out of that tip. All her friends in school were trying it – some, more successful than others.


“I think you better be ready for some attention,” warned Ann Marie. “This soap is going to bring you more face time than just that modeling gig you have in the window in Barton.”



Essie started feeling a little overwhelmed but she knew if this was successful she may be able to spend more time with grandma … or, at least, help pay for the growing care that would be needed.


“Be sure to pack that box over there and take those to Deb at Over the Moon so she can sell them too,” said Ann Marie.


Harvest Moon Dance on the horizon

The Historic Barton Business Association will be hosting a Harvest Moon Dance on Saturday, Oct. 29. It’s going to be held in the gym at St. Mary’s School in Barton. There will be music, dancing, and a pie contest. Watch for more details in the coming weeks.


Build. Boost & Buy in Barton  – – Shop these local businesses

          Wisconsin House Woodworks

          Albiero Plumbing 

          Master Electric
           Lake Lenwood Beach and Campground

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