Bubbles for business: Auburn owner to relocate, reopen as handmade goods market

Bubbles & Beauty Boutique houses three different product lines of soaps, beauty and more.

Until the spring of 2020, Bubbles and Beauty Boutique owner Shari Nirschl hand-made and then sold her three product lines at the same place – that mall grey shop off the alley at 18 B St. NE in downtown Auburn.

But after Covid hit, and state health edicts nixed walk-ins, Nirschl, unfazed, kept her nose to the soap stone, still making her handcrafted soaps, self care and boutique products behind the scenes, and focusing her sales on small retail outlets.

“If you were to go into the shop now, all you’d see is a bunch of buckets,” Nirschl said.

Today, the Auburn businesswoman is preparing to move bubbles, beauty, and everything else across East Main into fresh digs – the former Rottle’s Clothing and Shoe Store. That is, in October or November, Nirschl said, Bubbles and Beauty Boutique will reopen there as a maker’s market. At the moment, she is scouting out vendors and crafts people avid to sell their own handmade products in the new enterprise, which will be called Rose’s Makers Market, and operate five to seven days a week.

Crucially, the change will allow living, breathing customers once again to sashay in and check it all out.

And there’ll be a lot to check out.

The Maggie’s Bath House line, a nod to the Portland, Ore., woman who taught Nirschl how to make her own soaps, offers soap sugar cubes, soap dough-nots, bath sundaes, bath sprinkles, loofah lollies, soap cupcakes, bath butters, body frostings, body milk and body whip.

Lovely to look at, just don’t eat any of those goodies. And don’t let the kids chow down, either.

“Well, maybe some kids, if you know ‘em,” Nirschl joked.

Moving on, there’s Nirschl’s Black Bird Botanicals Apothecary Bathline with its 100 percent handmade apothecary goat’s milk soaps, shaving items and foot care, all pleasantly wrapped in small, muslin bags.

Apothecary? What’s that about? Sounds like something out of Bell, Book and Candle, the shop in the witch-themed 1958 film starring Jimmy Stewart, Elsa Lanchester and Kim Novak.

“No, I am not doing any weird stuff,” Nirschl assures with a laugh.

Finally, there’s Verbena Botanicals, comprised of 100% handmade goat’s milk soap, milk wash lotions and serums.

Business in all of the above bath goodies is good, she said.

“I enjoy what I am doing. That’s why I am doing the maker’s market. I enjoy helping other small businesses grow. It opens up a place for me not only to sell my stuff but to help other small businesses, too,” she said. “Right now, I do events with my business throughout the Puget Sound Region, and all of the vendors are super excited. It’s a lot of work setting up and spending the whole day at an event, and then unpacking while being a crafter for years.”

“It’s hard to be a brick-and-mortar business and to be a crafter because you can’t be in two places at one time. This gives different crafters the opportunity to have their products in one place. It will be staffed, so everybody will check out at same register. They will not have to be here to sell their products, they can continue to work in other markets at the same time,” Nirschl said

Nirschl’s father, Dennis Nirschl, is an Auburn boy, but he raised his family in Kent, and Shari graduated from Kent Meridian High School in 1991, having already earned her degree in cosmetology, the field in which she would work for several years, locally and then in Arizona

A chance encounter at a trade show with the aforementioned Maggie and Maggie’s husband, Harold, soap makers extraordinnaire, led to close friendships and introduced her to the craft she now practices.

In fact, at the invitation of the generous Maggie, who taught her all about soap making and shared her recipes, she took over ownership of their Portland shop, before moving to Auburn.

At first, Nirschl called her Auburn shop Verbena Botanicals, but, she said, she had to make a change.

“It was rather confusing for people, so I created a new business name, Bubbles and Beauty Boutique, which is an umbrella name for all three product lines,” Nirschl said.

Running a business comes naturally to this King County native, who hails from a long line of entrepreneurs on both sides of her family.

Her grandfather, Herman Nirschl, sold mud flaps along the I-5 corridor in the early decades of the 20th century, and raised his family, including Shari’s father, Dennis, on a farm on the west side of Auburn Way North. In time, the family repurposed the farm’s long, rectangular barn into a place of business called South King Furniture. When the family sold the furniture business years later, the site became a Poulsbo RV, and after that, a successful swap-meet site.

On her mother’s side, her grandfather, Derwin Tufte, was a shoe repairman and owner of Kent Shoe Repair. When grandpa died, still a young man, Tufte’s daughter and her husband took over the business. When they outgrew it, they opened Country Square in the former barn-turned-furniture-store-turned-Poulsbo-RV-turned-swap-meet.

“That barn has turned into many things,” Shari said.

On her grandmother’s side, one of her great uncles was the original owner of Sam’s Shoe Repair in downtown Auburn. When great-uncle sold the business many years later, the buyer kept the name, Sam’s, and Sam’s it remained for many years until the buyer’s son closed shop during the pandemic. Today, the site is the office of the Downtown Auburn Cooperative.

“None of us know how to do anything else,” said Nirschl. “We’ve always had a hard time working for other people.”

When she’s not up to her neck in soap and the like, Nirschl, a resident of Lea Hill, digs hanging out with her 1 1/2 year-old granddaughter, Juliana, the child of her daughter, Tasondra.