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Mike Wysocke and Barbara Cunningham recently opened Sassy Albert Soaps in Tunkhannock. STAFF PHOTO/MIKE RUDOLF

BY MICHAEL J. RUDOLF

Wyoming County Press Examiner

TUNKHANNOCK – There is a new face among the businesses selling local products in Tunkhannock.

Sassy Albert Soaps opened its doors at 6 West Tioga Street this week. Owner Michael Wysocke and his partner, Barbara Cunningham, make and sell herbal soaps and lotions.

"We try to grow and distill most of the herbs right here in the community," Wysocke said.

"I wanted to offer the local public a safe alternative to products you buy in the drug store," Cunningham added.

She said their soaps are made of entirely natural materials, and are free of any chemical additives or by-products.

Wysocke, a Tunkhannock Area High School graduate, originally was a chef, working at several restaurants around the country.

He noted that one time while travelling on vacation, he purchased a bar of herbal soap. Believing he could make a better product at a much lower price, he started studying the art of soapmaking.

Meanwhile, Cunningham, a New Milford native, was raising a family in Oregon. She was an organic farmer, and part owner of a health food store.

"I've always been a student of everything, especially health," she said.

The two became acquainted with each other after they returned to northeast Pennsylvania, and soon joined forces to produce their products.

Wysocke said the process is relatively simple. He takes herbs and distills them to get to the essential oils within them. They are combined with a natural soap base that he produces to make the finished product.

Some of the soaps have scents that people expect, such as vanilla or pine. Others are a bit more exotic.

For example, Sassy Albert makes a soap specifically for hunters. Known as "Deerslayer," the soap actually smells like dirt.

For the holidays, in addition to the pine-scented some, there is also one with a candy cane aroma.

Wysocke said he and Cunningham like to experiment. He sometimes creates soaps that remind him of places he has been. There is one variety that smells like an ocean beach, while another is reminiscent of a French countryside.

"The more we learn, the more we're producing," he said.

Not every experiment works out, he noted. But once in a while, even what should be a failure turns out to be a surprise.

For example, Wysocke said he was experimenting with a recipe that he misread, and doubled the amount of aloe that was supposed to go in it. The soap turned out to be a very soothing variety that now sells very well.

"We stumbled on it by accident," he said.

Noting that a lot of soaps and skin care products have flowery aromas, Wysocke and Cunningham have developed products that have the same therapeutic properties, yet with more masculine scents. The idea was to get more men to purchase soaps and lotions.

"Once you use homemade soap, you'll never go back to the commercial soaps," Cunningham said.

Sassy Albert also sells pet care products, such as flea control shampoos and natural flea collars. In fact, it was the development of these products that gave the business its name.

Wysocke said while trying to develop a dog soap, he discovered that he needed a license to purchase lye. The application asked for his business name, so he entered in the names of his dogs, Sassy and Albert.

For the past several years, Wysocke and Cunningham have been selling their products at craft fairs, festivals and other venues throughout Pennsylvania and New York. They recently decided a permanent retail outlet was necessary as well, so they settled on Wysocke's hometown.

To learn more about Sassy Albert Soaps, stop in at the store, or call 606-4107 or e-mail sassyalbert@gmail.com.