NOT THAT IT'S happening anytime soon, but just in case anyone ever asked me that age-old question about "turn-ons" and "turn-offs," I have a few answers prepared. And high atop my list of turn-offs would be: cheap soap. Regardless of the (many, many) other places in life where I go for the cheapest option, soap is a sacred, attainable luxury I insist upon. I won't have any pungent, moisture-draining Bee & Flower business in my house. Someone got me a gift certificate to a fancy home goods store in the Pearl last year, and I used it on a bathmat and a $35 bar of soap. I'm far from alone in my pursuit of the next marvelously packaged/obscure/classic/foreign sudsy treat. Soap snobs are legion, and Spruce Apothecary—newly opened in the Union Way development downtown—is our new favorite destination.
Its pedigree is impeccable: Spruce is the skin, hair, fragrance, and body care outpost of Canoe, the hallowed design store that was an early adopter in the now thriving West End. Owners Sean Igo and Craig Olson are already famous for their impeccable taste, and they've translated that sensibility into a fabulously curated, wisely unisex space inspired by the apothecaries of the German spa town where Olson lived for a time.
The shop, small but mighty, features clean rows that reflect a mix of modern (Sachajuan, Malin + Goetz, REN) and European classics (Kneipp, Bay Rum, Royall Lyme), finding what Olson calls a "continuum" in the timeline of quality and care. Everything from shampoo and lotion to humorously overbuilt tube wringers and "the Cadillac of personal lubricants" is represented, along with a wall of niche fragrances (San Francisco's brand new Mikmoi, Odin, and there's a forthcoming collaboration with Portland's Imaginary Authors), but they've carefully eschewed cosmetics in order to preserve the chicly gender-neutral vibe (there is, however, a shaving care section).
As with any collector, body-care fetishists thrive on the obscure and hard to find, an area in which Spruce particularly excels. Discovered largely through connections rather than trade shows, Olson walked me through a stupendously packaged (and often well-priced) wonderland of exclusives and new names, from a South African hair oil made from the nuts of marula trees, to a line of small-batch products made on a farm in New Mexico with ingredients grown on the premises. Even in the case of the more recognizable names, like the aforementioned Malin + Goetz and Sachajuan, Spruce distinguishes itself by boasting the most complete representation of it, including the brand-new body care complement to Sachajuan's Swedish-made cult favorite hair products.
So, for future reference, cut to the chase and buy all my gift certificates here, please. I've already got a bathmat. Spruce Apothecary, 1022 W Burnside, spruceapothecary.com