St. Clair Shores women hope to impact the environment

Good News Notes:

Although Refill Emporium is less than a year old, its zero-waste focus is a throwback to the way things used to be.

The company’s products take a step back to the time before seemingly every item was packaged in disposable plastic containers, before paper towels replaced cloth dish towels, and when a bar of soap — instead of liquid hand soap or shower gel – was what was used to get clean.

Lifelong friends Shannon Sweetwood and Whitney Wagner, who both graduated from St. Clair Shores Lakeview High School and now reside in their hometown, are very concerned about the environment and specifically the amount of waste generated from single-use plastics. Sweetwood wants to make sure that her 16-month-old daughter has a livable planet in which she can grow up.

In January 2021, the duo launched Refill Emporium; a zero-waste refill shop. Products are sold through the company website as well as through various farmer’s markets in the area. Currently, no-contact delivery is available to St. Clair Shores, Harrison Township, the Grosse Pointes, New Baltimore, Shelby Township and Utica.

“It was a brand new venture for both of us,” Wagner said. “I was in retail management for 12 years, and Shannon was in the medical field. Zero-waste products are not just a trend, but a lifestyle.”

All Refill Emporium products are made in the United States or in Canada, in fact, many items are made by the proprietors themselves, and are tested by Sweetwood and Wagner. Anything they sell, they actually use in their own homes.

“If we don’t like it, we don’t sell it,” Wagner said. “We have to believe in what we are selling and we also have to be very price conscious. A lot of things can get way too expensive, so we don’t want to overcharge to the point where things are way outside of someone’s budget. We want everyone to be able to come and shop with us.”

Refill Emporium carries home cleaning, bath and body, and hair-care products. Specific items include olive oil bar soap, reusable silicone food bags, and lotion bars. Customers can bring their own containers and refill items like shampoo, cleaning solutions, lemongrass dish soap, body wash and scouring powder.

In addition to being entrepreneurs, Wagner and Sweetwood like to think of themselves as educators.

“We are teaching people and hoping they will pass the information to their friends,” Sweetwood said. “We want to show people that recycling is a last resort and refilling is a first resort and also that when you are shopping, you can make conscious decisions. Instead of picking up fruit in packaging, they can shop at a local farmer’s market. Instead of using a plastic bottle of shampoo, they can use a shampoo bar.”

Business has been so brisk for Refill Emporium, the two friends have decided to expand operations. This week they secured a lease for a retail spot at 21524 Harper Avenue near Eight Mile Road. Having a brick and mortar store will allow them to expand their product line as well as their delivery area. They hope to open in early December.

Keeping the business in St. Clair Shores with easy accessibility for residents in nearby communities was important to Sweetwood and Wagner…..”

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