If you’ve walked through South Pasadena’s Farmers Market, a darling new shop may have caught your eye just behind La Monarca Bakery on Meridian Avenue. It’s called Raíces, Maribel Valadez’s passion project filled with handcrafted, environmentally conscious soaps, lotions and shampoos made in her native Aguascalinetes, Mexico. You inhale the amazing aromas when you walk by and entering the shop is a full five senses experience. Artistically displayed, the soaps are unwrapped and stacked by scent and customers are encouraged to peruse, handle and smell them.
Drawn by our outstanding schools for her son Alex, Valadez has been a South Pasadenan since 2006. The seed of the idea for Raíces was planted three years ago on a visit to Valadez’s hometown of Aguascalinetes, where she connected with her childhood friend Mari Montelongo. They met in drama classes and hoped to be actresses one day. Instead, years later, they have gone into business together. Montelongo creates all the soaps from the natural resources in the region and Valadez became enamoured, using them herself and giving them as gifts. The response was so incredibly positive and, realizing we didn’t have these particular products here, Valadez began to dream of bringing these unique soaps to share with her community. “It was also a way for me to share something from my hometown,” says Valadez. “Everything is made in my hometown by artisans using local resources.”
“I love the collaboration I have with Mari”, Valadez tells us, “for example, the avocado soap is something I asked her to create because here in California we love avocados, and let me tell you, the soap she created is so nourishing and not to worry, it doesn’t smell like guacamole! I love it and it’s very popular. We named it Avocali!” The two are now collaborating on a signature scent for the Raíces hand soap that they will feature in the shop on their environmentally conscious table of refillable liquid soaps, lotions and shampoos. “I wanted a scent that identified Raíces because scents invoke memories and for me, I want it to smell like after the rain. It reminds me of my childhood, going outside after the rain and that fresh, sweet smell of wet earth, grass, trees…very refreshing.” So be on the lookout for this new, unique Raíces signature handsoap. In the meantime you can fill your containers with the lovely mango scent that is being featured currently along with refillable hair styling cream, shampoo, conditioner, makeup remover, and body milk. Sold by the ounce, customers are invited to purchase her 4oz. or 14oz. bottles or bring in your own.
“These truly are earth’s natural gifts to you” enthuses Valadez, “our creations come from natural resources…gifts of nature!” When I mention how you can smell the store before even stepping into it, she agrees that experience is what brings customers in from South Pasadena and beyond. “When people enter the store they experience beautiful aromas and the tranquil and fragrant environment,”she explains, “they like that we are very aware of being environmentally conscious and sustainable. Two of the biggest attractions are the shampoo and conditioner bars because, besides being great, they are free of packaging.” These are among her biggest sellers and a unique product. One shampoo bar can last for months, especially for men. And yes, all the fragrances are unisex but she tells us that men are especially drawn to the charcoal, rosemary, mint, and coffee soaps. I personally love the yogurt soap, the lavender soap and I bring in my vintage style glass dispenser that I purchased here to fill with the hand soap.
One of her favorite soaps is the Sal de Mer (Sea Salt) because she says it reminds her of being on vacation in Mexico saying, “I smell it and I’m there! Puerta Villarta sitting on the beach! I love it!” She is very convincing and once she mentioned this on Raíces social media, it flew off the shelves!
Another hot item is the Eyebrow Combing Kit consisting of a glycerin soap infused with rosehip oil and mint which comes with an eyebrow brush. Valadez uses this herself and says “it really works beautifully. I apply it once in the morning and it lasts all day. The beauty is that it has no chemicals and it’s also economical because the one little soap lasts for months!”
For the holidays and special occasions Raíces offers curated gift boxes based on scent, style or theme. One such box we noticed was a shaving kit for men that included a shea butter shaving soap and brush, charcoal soap and aftershave. They are also featuring some limited edition soaps Valadez calls “so delicious! We have coconut, cinnamon with orange, strawberry mint, oatmeal with honey and milk, and candy cane glycerin soaps. Some of my customers requested we do some glycerin soaps, which is very popular in Mexico, so we’re giving these a try.”
Raíces means “roots” in Spanish and after deliberating over several names for her shop, Valadez found herself drawn to Raíces because she felt an emotional connection and every time she said it she says “I felt something. I liked the way it made me feel and we all have roots, we all share the roots from the earth and these products invite us back to the earth, back to our roots, to use what nature gives us.”
When you stop in the shop you will more often than not find Valadez herself there because, she explains, “having this shop was a dream so when I’m here it doesn’t feel like work. I love being here, I love talking to people, I love sharing all the benefits of these beautiful soaps and shampoos, I love cleaning and arranging the shop to make it inviting. Every day is an opportunity to share a piece of my hometown.” She says she wants everyone to feel welcome, “Raices is a shop for everyone. Our prices are reasonable and there is something for everyone. We are a diverse community and my clientele reflects that diversity.”
Having her own business has always been a dream for Valadez but having the shop in her beloved South Pasadena is more than she could have hoped for. “I have lived here for 15 years and I love South Pasadena. I love the community, I feel safe and I love the support of the community. I am so happy and excited and I feel blessed to be able to share something from my hometown with all of you. That’s amazing for me and I feel the love and support.”
Raíces is located at 906 Meridian Avenue in South Pasadena, California. Open daily.
Call (323) 747-0244 visit https://raices-beauty-product-supplier.business.site/
Alisa Hayashida and Esteban Lopez contributed to this article.