Made in Tulsa
Tulsa is full of companies manufacturing widely used and specialty products. Here, meet four companies providing everything from school buses to uniquely scented soaps.
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On her soapbox:
Kelli Brown-Groblewski and her husband, Gary, are passionate and involved Tulsans. Gary is a home brewer who takes his special homemade beers to national and regional competitions. Last May, Kelli, a creative soul who also loves beer, recycling and combining unusual scents, founded Okie Crowe (hint: She’s a huge Black Crowes fan). Her business focuses on handmade products that are fun, unique, eco-conscious and emphasize local artistry.
Kelli began playing with the idea of making beer-scented soaps after seeing Gary’s leftover hops, grains and beer ingredients lying around.
“I started mixing oats and grains and hops into soaps and stuff,” Kelli says.
Before long, people were clamoring for her homemade beer-scented soaps in custom-created scents such as Honey Basil Pale Ale and Tallboy. Her first creation was based on one of her husband’s homebrew recipes for oatmeal stout.
“I went to the homebrew store (High Gravity) to see what goes in oatmeal stout beer,” she says.
She then adapted beer-brewing recipes to create soap recipes.
In the last year, Kelli’s and Gary’s hobbies have taken Green Country by storm. Their soaps and products are available at 11 shops, including Ida Red Boutique, Made: The Indie Emporium Shop and Grogg’s Green Barn, as well as online and at events (think Blue Dome Arts Festival, McNellie’s Harvest Beer Festival and Sand Springs Herbal Affair & Festival, among many others).
And her soap fragrances have moved beyond beer, too. Kelli turns funny ideas — such as, say, a dill pickle- or tomato basil-scented soap — into products. She even used real Oklahoma red dirt to create an amber-scented soap with a little Okie exfoliant.
In their home, Kelli and Gary make a variety of products throughout the week. When soap is on the production schedule, they create a batch of about three dozen soaps per day. For now, Okie Crowe’s operation is a snug fit inside the Groblewskis’ shaded three-bedroom home near Riverside Drive and Interstate 44. But they still have their priorities straight.
“Our beer fridge is bigger than our regular fridge,” Kelli says, laughing.
She’s expanding the product line to include scented and felted soaps, hand scrubs and even bath fizzes in the shape of beer mugs and the state of Oklahoma. She created “Bark ‘n Beerscuits” dog treats as an alternative to composting unfermented beer grains.
Okie Crowe production focuses on recycling, “upcycling” (creating another use for an item) and keeping its carbon footprint as small as possible.
The Groblewskis make use of leftover hops for soap ingredients; local beer labels for keychains and other items; and old Tulsa World newspapers for soap packaging to create fun, innovative and totally new products.
“It all goes back to something we love or doing something good for the earth or trying to use ingredients in a different way,” Kelli says.
Their felted soaps came along as a way to reduce their own waste. When soaps melt or get a little dinged up while on display in a shop, most businesses throw them out.
“But they’re still perfectly fine,” Kelli says.
Enter Jane Deason and her company, Angora Jane. Deason is a west Tulsa resident who raises her own sheep, shears them herself and then dyes and spins her own wool. Take local wool, and after a few processing tricks, you’ve got a pretty felted soap.
“You can use it as a soap and washcloth in one,” Kelli says. “Plus, it’s also an exfoliant and loofah.”
Okie Crowe used leftover grains from Marshall Brewing Co.’s spring brewing of Revival Red Ale to create Bark ’n Beerscuits. Other Okie Crowe products are made from Gary’s home-brewing leftovers or from bulk bins at High Gravity. The Groblewskis are also working on an upcoming line of dog collars and keychains that feature local beer labels.
“We’re conquering Tulsa and now branching out from there,” she says.