salon

the salon will be opening very soon. please check back soon for need to know info, including pricing & hours.

we look forward to seeing you soon.

 

cheers,

– d&l

  • level one

    finishing up the salon and getting ready for state inspection. until the state board of cosmetology deems me ready, i cannot begin operating the salon. funny how the inevitable allows one time to think. and re-think.

     

    today’s tasks include finishing the floor, meeting with the wella rep to finalize the opening color order, writing this blog and then designing the posters/marketing materials for our yoga studio. it is the little things that make the difference. focus me on the wider view of things. though i had hoped to have most of the work completed by this sunday’s public open house, life is offering some fresh perspective. i get a good deal of requests from new stylists about assistant positions. my approach to the assistants has been based purely on my own experience. shame. hanging lights yesterday, the bulb literally and figuratively went on. i have been attempting to explain what i want the first room to be when even i do not quite know the answer. then it came to me. level one. a place where stylists can learn, assist and ply their craft. as they mature in skill, they move into the main salon as level two. eventually, with hard work and talent, they achieve level three. most stylist with a book are at level three.

     

    surely as the sun will rise, my ideas will morph and grow into whatever is best for the whole team. for now at least, i am beginning at level one.

     

     

  • the day is a perpetual morning

    vision is subjective. it varies depending upon where you stand. i do not believe that one vision is better than another. however i do like to think vision is about fit. what wears best. what you are willing to try on and, depending upon your level of comfort, either own or try on something else. our salon is no different. for two years i have been sitting upon a pre-signed lease that until recently i could not execute. that is how long i have been planning this day. as an impatient and brash younger man, i never could have done this. funny how life leads us where it may. for those who care to read on, i’d like to share a bit of my adventure and how we ended up at this point in our story.

     

    when i was young, very young, i liked to create hair styles with my friends (girls) dolls. i did not want to dress them or play act, just groom, cut and style. i did once try to use color but friends don’t look kindly to shoe polished barbie brunettes. i put away these childish things but never lost touch with my inner hairdresser. fast forward through a very long and turbulent post adolescence. if i were allowed a do-over, i would drop out of high school circa 1978, run away to london and become a part of the amazing movement in hair that took place in that era. in short, i would have begun this path earlier. though some people dream of a different life, i dream more of the same. i began my barber/stylist career in a bathroom with a pair of clippers and a six pack of Molson Ale. the results were horrendous but the dye was cast. a few days later i enrolled in cosmetology school. my professional career had begun. i was hired for my first job at the once prestigious John Wanamaker Salon (shabby and fraying at the edges). at that phase of the salon’s lifecycle, it afforded me ample opportunity to practice my craft and pull my personal shit together. then a year at Strawbridge & Clothier (amazing dental benefits..) then down 13th street to a new salon called CUT where i pulled in as many new clients as possible. then a very brief and surreal stint at Invincible. this is when i realized i was responsible for creating my own happiness. ergo, The Atlas Hair Co. my first solo venture. it would be prudent to note at this point that i had been chosen by a new product manufacturer, American Crew, as a local educator. and soon after, a national all-star. my clients never quite understood what i did after closing the salon on Saturday afternoon until opening again Wednesday morning but in laymen’s terms, my teammates and i were making history. American Crew had five products when i began working with the company. i was trained by some of the finest barber/stylist the world has ever known. American Crew broke the boundaries of all previous educational experiences and re-created the market segment for the male client. today, an entire generation of stylist’s work is influenced by the groundbreaking work of American Crew. though i was more of a method workhorse educator, my teammates were brilliant editorialists who could create styles that are still interpreted, reinterpreted, shorn and worn today.

     

    in 1999 i tried to do something really stupid. i envisioned the expansion of Atlas while creating the Philadelphia Soap Company. my idea failed for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which was my inability to look at the whole picture. i learned a great deal about success through the process of failure. for the record, i define failure as the collapse of an idea or venture and success as the ability to move with time, discern what is good from the lesser, build trust in oneself and then create a life that is not defined by another’s measure of the word success. once i could master this, duross & langel was possible. we closed the salon in 2007 so that we could move the store and expand operations. though i knew my days as a stylist were over, my mentor/educator life just needed an extended vacation. i still teach for Joe Grooming from time to time when not developing new product ideas for the line, but it has become crystal clear where my passions have reignited. welcome to today.

     

    in my opinion, nothing worth having is easy. the trick is not getting what you want. it’s still wanting it after you get it. things worth building come with challenges. coming up with money is the easy part. finding someone who can interpret and build your vision, though a bit tougher, is made true by other craftsmen who show up and excel (thank you Matt Bruno). populating the place with like-minded individuals is tougher still. this is where ample patience is needed. patience is a struggle for me (at the moment though, i am breathing through it). what i am attempting to do within this space is very different from what many salons do. i imagine many will think my methods a bit mad. everyone likes to think they know it all. know it best. most days i am no exception. creating a tiered yet democratic salon is tricky. like me, many stylists fresh out of school can’t afford to spend months on end being an assistant. many people like me have to cut. and cut. and cut. and cut. that is how we master. so? make one room a workshop where even the most novice of stylists can hone their craft while making some coin. the price is sweet for the client and the results are still better than the most chainy of the chain salons. for the record, just because a salon is well appointed and the prices keep out riff raff like me does not mean you are getting what you paid for. but i digress. in the salon, stylists will have to set their own prices based on the level of talent and experience they bring to the space. you just want a wash and cut? this much. you want a cut and blow out? this much. color too? you get the idea. it’s not a new one. just an idea that need to be reclaimed and repurposed. i’ve been told it’s not going to work. but i was told no one would come to my store to purchase hand made natural bath and skin care either. this is happening. you can find me filed somewhere between anxious and elated.

     

    Thoreau once wrote “to one whose elastic and vigorous thoughts keep pace with the sun, the day is a perpetual morning. It matters not the labors and attitudes of men, morning is when I am awake and there is dawn in me. ”

     

    there is dawn in us all. come join us in the adventure.

     

    steve duross

     

  • bing. bang. boom.

    when you enter the store, it wouldn’t be immediately apparent that our world has changed. everything happening comes from above. no, that is not a metaphor for some higher purpose. merely a fact that the store we all love has become the sturdy root to what is quickly becoming a vast system of branches. there are days where it becomes overwhelming but mostly it is a delight. not for the process but for the possibility. as i sit typing on this bitterly cold yet sunny sunday morning, the combination of a steaming cup of african honey bush and knowing how close we are to completion warms me deeply. though the specific details have yet to be given, suffice it to say that within a month all should be settled. a brave new world begins.

     

    as i have stated on this blog many times before, i do not love the process of change. however within the D&L world, i have become change’s agent. as much as i enjoy the pace of a settled, ordered life, my inner entrepreneur cannot help but dream bigger dreams and then bing. the lightbulb goes on. bang. stuff gets demolished. boom. everyone’s life is in flux as we attempt to resettle newly created ideas into our daily life. again. last january as we all sat by the pool in san juan, i warned my team that life was about to change. “savor every day” i would tell them “it will never be the same again”.  dramatic? sure. but truer words were never spoken. the last year was preparation for 2015. the year that lies ahead. we are all up to the challenge and i couldn’t be more pleased by the way this team has risen to meet the realities of our ever changing work life.

     

    given the choice between the ordinary and the extraordinary, we choose the latter every time. there is no guarantee of success, but we have pledged ourselves to creating a stronger base to our venture that can secure a better future for us all. sorry to see the second kitchen evaporate, however it has reconstituted itself as it’s own entity on the 3rd and 4th floors of 117 s 13th street. elvis hasn’t left the building. he’s just movin’ on up. my salon is a work in progress. choosing to use reclaimed materials slows things a bit. furniture arrives daily and everything is in place for the next step. as for sarah’s yoga studio? the simple nothingness of it takes my breath away. you cannot understand what it is until you stand beneath the high curved ceilings and gaze out it’s 16 windows that climb from your knees and soar above your head. a temple of glass and parquet that beckons you to bring your mat and uncoil. slowly it begins. haste is not within our vision. 

     

    IMG_4233 IMG_4251

    IMG_4218IMG_4272IMG_4388IMG_4385IMG_4280     IMG_4328  IMG_4254

  • you can get from here to there but first you have to switch trains

    a good deal has been written and discussed regarding the return of our partner james langel. recently Philadelphia Magazine used us as part of their storyline for the February issue. suffice it to say that the little article written (well, i might add), does not tell the whole story. nor should it. openly, publicly, people have peppered me with questions regarding james’ return to not only the business, but philadelphia in general. it is really nobody’s business.

     

    we have, all of us, a duty to continue operating at the level of quality and customer service while we expand the business and grow the various segments. we welcome james back to help us achieve our goals. it is always a bit bumpy when the dynamic of a group changes. long on work hours and short on patience, we soldier on through these changes that growth can bring. a year from now no one will be asking, but if we seem a bit short fused at the moment, most likely is has to do with the enormity of the project we’ve undertaken.

  • the anatomy of a bad friend

    almost anyone who has ever worked retail over the holiday season can regale you with stories of the insanity. hilarity ensues during seemingly endless days while the evening’s rush to keep up is but a part of this tale. waking at odd hours from dreams of boxing gifts and wrapping soap is how most of the  D+L staff begins each day. eating heartily and passing out, remembering nothing of how we made it into bed was the ending to every night. unless you live within our circle, you cannot completely comprehend. even those close to us or living with us seemingly miss the point. we are an odd and insular group. we work best as one unit. this is our truth, not an apology, not a complaint. just the facts to explain to our loved ones why during the holidays we make such bad friends.

     

    3 days. that is all it takes for us to sell an average months wares on the run up to christmas. imagine if you were to gather your entire month into 3 days in a row? wake, eat, shower, sleep – just once a day. everything else is 30 days work. now multiply that by 9. so please dear friends and family, forgive us our trespasses, our exhaustion, our impatience. allow us a bit of space, no demands and a few days to recover before we have to begin making everything we sold. stop calling and for the love of god, stop texting us. whatever your deal might be, unless someone is dying, dead or bleeding profusely, we ain’t got the time. feel free to contact us the other 11 months of the year. we hope you still love us.

     

  • starting from scratch

    steve 2014

    recently i sat down with one of my business partners to discuss the opening of our newest venture, the salon at duross & langel. i won’t be coy about how it went down. the partner is my niece, a bright and energetic person with a fantastic job and an emerging life as a young mother. when we first discussed the possibility of her coming on full time, the baby was just an idea. now that go time is almost here and the baby is four months old, the reality of beginning this project takes on a different hue. though she is present in this project (and for me) in a variety of ways, we won’t be seeing one another on a daily basis for some time. i feel it would be accurate to say we are both sad and relieved. starting from scratch is a tricky business.

     

    most people at the beginning of any venture have a giddy, almost ecstatic way of describing their future projects. guts, grit and determination fuel the adrenaline that is required for such an undertaking. i have a vastly contrasting view on this particular experience. having been down this road before, the pay-off my inner entrepreneurial junkie craves comes in long term success and stability. any fool can take home a prize gold fish from the fair. few are capable of keeping it alive for any length of time. besides, as a child of the early sixties raised by the typical parents of the fifties, i knew that each of my choices had long term consequences, and that a smack might be coming at any moment from a risky decision made.

     

    the studio at duross & langel (yoga) begins in late winter. james and i are overjoyed to be fully incorporated with sarah as our partner. for the first time in her career, she will be the majority share holder. and why not? years of proven hard work, success and devotion toward D+L provide us with a sense of trust. our personal relationship engenders a familial sense of permanence. her background within the philadelphia yoga community as well as her following as a teacher make her a natural choice. though we know there will be blow-back from some, sarah has chosen to create the studio as an extension of the ideals we espouse within the D+L concept. that’s a kind of bullshit for saying “no bullshit”. though we are starting from scratch, sarah still runs the store as well as creating the vision for the studio and hiring the teachers. the teachers are the key to her concept. though i promised not to give away her plan, i will say that sarah believes the teachers should create the environment for the studio rather than the other way round. i am sure to get smacked for sharing that.

     

    the salon is another matter entirely. though it’s been in my head for what seems like forever, it is a wisp of a thing until it is not. you cannot begin culling together any sort of staff until it is ready to open. to do otherwise would be risky to the stylists and sow the seeds for a disloyalty. i don’t cultivate disloyalty. if a stylist is feeling unhappy in their current workspace, if they want a different environment in which to do their work, if a stylist is just out of school and is eager to begin working on the floor under a mentor, we are currently creating a space that might fulfill their needs. we have decided not to make it a big sexy story that will be covered by the glossy mags. hi wattage pr nonsense will not be the fuel that fires this venture. no one ever needs to be bored by my pedigree within the salon community. the proof will be in the work we turn out and the experience the client enjoys. there is enough hair in the city of philadelphia that i do not feel the need to compete with my fellow stylists, my brothers and sisters in the salon community. once i have the place built, then i can have the state of pennsylvania give us license, then i can populate it with a deep, wide bench of talented team-mates, then i can get to work. i cannot in any conscience ask a young mother to sacrifice everything to start from scratch. thankfully, my colleen has her head on straight and would not follow me if i had. it will be her headache and joy soon enough.

     

    “why?” is the over-arching question i often ask myself. “why to solidify the work we began ten years ago” i tell myself. traffic needs to flow through the front door. i feel that people need a space that offers them something different, whether it is the person working or the customer coming through the door. besides, it would be sinful to waste our god-given talents. if i personally cannot find what i am looking for in an experience, should i not create it?  at the end of the day, sometimes my life feels like that old peggy lee song, “is that all there is?”  if i begin to feel it deeply, profoundly, i know that soon enough i will be, once again,  starting from scratch.

     

  • from little acorns

    old store

    our first store was a tiny thing. maybe 200 square feet in the front of my salon (which was actually where we lived). we put up a gate to keep the dogs in and a curtain at night to keep out prying eyes. it was a mad affair with little or no chance of growing. but here we are. ten years later working to make our enterprise as strong and sturdy as the mighty oak. i couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities this venture has inspired. keeping it quality and keeping it real is the bottom line.

     

    recently i spoke before several groups of undergrads about the business. as many who know me can attest, i am remarkably chatty and deliver a mountain of information at rapid speed. i’m not hard wired to sell what i do. i just do it. the magic occurs in the doing. everything else is conjecture. we don’t often follow the rules. we glide down the river in our own current, and every possibility hangs on where the energy flows. duross & langel exists in a way that profoundly begs the question, why?  how is it that we are capable of something few are able to achieve? in an attempt to find context people make the obvious comparisons to lush, bath and body works, khiels, etc. however they exist as multi national chains. we are a little corner family business. how then do we still exist? therein lies the rub.  though always appreciative of perspective, we won’t be conforming to conventional model behavior anytime soon. authenticity has it’s advantages. and though we talk about what’s coming in the near future, we hold our long term cards very close to our vest.

     

    i started this holiday season five minutes after halloween ended. i cannot say that it’s makes me proud, however the website is showing increased traffic and people are purchasing holiday goods. once upon a time i prided myself on our slow gate to the holiday rush. now… who am i to judge? everything is made, wrapped and waiting to be gifted. why should it sit in a box if people enjoy shopping early? sarah would agree that it’s less stressful to allow the season to begin when our customers make their requests. for those of you like me, who would rather put it off for a while longer, please ignore the santa in the window.

     

    in a few days i will be accepting the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce’s Excellence Award as Retailer of the Year on behalf of our company. they say i have 60 second to speak. hmmm. i guess i better talk fast. if i had the time, i would like to thank everyone who continues to make duross & langel a success. i would thank the chamber’s selection committee. i would thank Craig Grossman and Goldman Properties for believing in us and allowing us to grow within their walls. i would thank my friend ivy olesh from PIDC who, from the day we opened our doors, has championed D+L. i would thank our friend and business banker bill stewart, and PNC for not only funding our original expansion, but for making the task of banking simple (a feat not easily accomplished as you might think). i would thank our families for their unyielding love and support, our friends and customers for giving us another year to do what we love. i would acknowledge with love and devotion my team, specifically rob, cory, chuck and jaret of the wilson concept, for showing up and being brilliant. nothing would ever happen without the team. and lastly i would thank the two people who literally stand at either side of me, my partners sarah evancho and james langel. sarah is the energy that keeps our engine running and she makes people happy even when they work at being unloveable. her talents are rare and we are lucky to have sarah. as for james, his purpose is to figure out everything i don’t know. and that is quite a lot. james often claims that i get all the glory while he gets all the bills. and while that may be true, for the moment, the future has yet to be written. james is best equipt to meet the challenges of our future in finance and operations. it is a duel blessing to have him come home and take his seat at our table. in early 2015 we embark upon 3 new ventures that will add over 50 employees to our ranks. there is no way we could do this without james, sarah and the rest of our team. as for me, i started this business so i could putter around the workshop and make soaps and lotions. how incredibly blessed i am that it has all turned out so well.

     

     

  • honeygrow loves local

    S&S From their storefront at 117 S. 13th St. in the heart of Midtown Village, Duross & Langel soap makers are on the verge of expansion. What started as a salon at 1218 Locust Street eight years ago, has expanded into a lifestyle rooted in quality handmade products. Steve Duross, Duross & Langel’s eponymous chief “cook,” aka the creator and founder, had to create what he couldn’t find out there for himself.

     

    A trained barber, hairstylist and aesthetician, Steve is beyond passionate about utilizing the latest technologies with the simplest recipes to create inspired all natural bath products. Steve isn’t the only one in on the action; co-founder James Langel is a deodorant and lip balm extraordinaire and will be returning to Philadelphia from Austria (where he’s been working for Ikea as of late). Sarah Evancho brings the sustainability and nutrition focus into everything Duross & Langel does, from product to packaging and beyond. You’ll find Rob Evangelista, Steve’s nephew, upstairs bringing order to the chaos o the kitchen. Follow all of the personalities and products via their artistic instagram @durossandlangel

     

    Part CEO, part visionary, Steve strives to sees what he thinks could be great but needs to be in the hands most capable of realizing the vision. put in the right hands to bring it to life.

    “I got into this because I wanted to putter around in the kitchen, but I find I spend less and less time doing that. I don’t want to retire—at 86 I want to drop dead in my workshop…I want to continue to travel and live my life, but I want to stay relevant. I want to get up every day and I want to do something. I still have perfume making (to do) which I want to be the first line in my obituary.”

     

    All of Duross & Langel products are handmade, cruelty free, and all natural. The base of their delightful and aromatic soaps are made with olive, coconut and safflower all blended with shea butter. All of the packaging is designed in-house and the shop is set up with walls like a library. Peruse through the ‘stacks’ to find what’s right for you or your loved ones. A recent addition, the bath soaks (below) take bathing to a whole new level of indulgence.

     

    The shop strives to be keystone of the community, a place that women will bring their boyfriends (those guys will even later come back on their own!), a spot loyal customers bring their visiting family members. Guests can start with one product and work their way through all of the various offerings to suit their individual needs.

     

    Duross & Langel are experts at creating thoughtful and themed gift sets filled with aroma-therapeutic bath and shower skin care. Their witty themes range from “the hangover” to “women on a verge bath box” to meet everyone’s needs. Simply mention it’s a gift to receive beautiful gift-wrapping made with 100% recycled paper and post-consumer content. Bottles and jars are 100% recyclable. Their products also contribute to 1% for the planet, an organization that gives back to the planet to the business’s chosen cause. Duross & Langel chose the Delaware Riverkeeper, an organization that helps to ensure that the river and it’s tributaries are free-flowing, clean and healthy.

  • Staying Healthy is Good Clean Fun

    Global Hand Washing Day October 15th

    Feel good. Stay healthy.

    duross & langel is celebrating Global Hand Washing Day with FREE Samples of soap on the 15th and a reminder that the world remains healthier if we teach our children to wash their hands often.

    Hand washing with soap is a “do-it-yourself vaccine” that prevents infections and saves lives. The CDC and The World Health Organization wants us all to remember a few details when it comes to good hygiene:

    1 – Wash hands after every bathroom use
    2 – Do not touch your face
    3 – Use hand sanitizers (purse size available at Walgreens) when you cannot use soap and water
    4 – Stay away from antibacterial soaps as they leave your immune system unable to fight super pathogens

    Please stop by the store and wash your hands whenever you are in the neighborhood

     

    Cold & Flu Season

    Blah. Soak. Steam. Eat Healthy. Rest.

    Each year we create various natural bath and shower products that help you feel better when a cold or flu has you feeling low. The time to stock up is before you get sick. You may also order online and either have it delivered or picked up in the store for FREE.

    Currently, many of us are plagued by seasonal allergies. There isn’t a whole lot we can do about that. I make soup to feel better but it doesn’t stop me from feeling tired or cranky. Everyone at D+L wishes you a happy, healthy autumn season. Please let us know if we can be helpful, and take good care of yourselves as well as one another. With health and strength everything is possible.

     

    Steve Duross

     

  • A Groomer’s Philly Musts

    BY MARNI PRICHARD MANKO

    Duross & Langel owner Steve Duross celebrates 10 suds-filled years this month. Here, the grooming guru shares his staples.

    Steve Duross cuts blocks of soap in his Center City boutique
    Steve Duross cuts blocks of soap in his Center City boutique.

    Steve Duross has spent the last decade crafting his indulgent line of homemade small-batch soaps, skin balms, and bath products at Duross & Langel (117 S. 13th St., 215-592-7627). But for someone who is on his feet 12 hours a day, he’s all about casual elegance. “I always buy a boot. I adore anything by Cole Haan (1600 Walnut St., 215-985-5801) because of the LunarGrand technology.” For dressier occasions, he turns to Commonwealth Proper (1839 Chestnut St., 267-319-1741), who designed his favorite blue suit. “They get that they’re fitting for my body. If my suit’s not fitted correctly, I look like I’m about to have my first communion all over again.”

    for dressier occasions, he turns to Rittenhouse suit atelier Commonwealth Proper
    For dressier occasions, he turns to Rittenhouse suit atelier Commonwealth Proper.

    When it comes to grooming, Duross is humbly aware that he’s biased toward his own goods. “My shave cream, called Shave, beats everyone’s shave cream, hands down, and I use our Essential Face + Body Wash made with cold-pressed limes and vetiver essential oils.” And while 95 percent of the time he cuts his own hair (“I could do it in my sleep with my eyes closed”), the only other place he heads to is Richard Nicholas Hair Studio (1716 Sansom St., 215-567-4790). “The people there really do amazing work,” he says.

    Cole Haan’s LunarGrand technology helps keep Duross bouncing after 12 hours on his feet.
    Cole Haan’s LunarGrand technology helps keep Duross bouncing after 12 hours on his feet.

    About his fitness regimen, Duross says he likes to keep his workouts “as straightforward as possible with things like progressive resistance: pull-ups, push-ups, lots of crunches.” To get in fighting shape, he works out at The Sporting Club at the Bellevue (224 S. Broad St., 215-985-9876) or Unite Fitness (105 S. 12th St., 215-733-0633). “My staff and I partner with Unite and have tons of classes so we can all train together.”

  • into the woods you have to grope, but that’s the way you learn to cope. into the woods to find there’s hope of getting through the journey

    trail IMG_0116castleOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    a sondheim quote is my favorite way to begin a blog. especially when it’s relevance to the moment is powerful. from the brothers grimm comes a very old and familiar concept that there are going to be moments in our lives where we find ourselves wandering in the woods. and when we emerge, as we hopefully do, we will emerge transformed. a little different. a little stronger. a little wiser. though i do not find myself wandering lost in the forest, i am, to push the metaphor, cognizant that in this moment, my moment, i am tasked with knowing the forest from the trees. and there are giants in the sky.

     

    when i talk, when i tell a story, my tendency is to tangent. often, i tell two or three stories all at once. this will be one of those occasions. it begins with a hike in the alps a few weeks ago where i began pitching the idea of james leaving IKEA and coming back full-time as CFO/COO. how did this happens? we were literally and figuratively in the woods. he was trapped. there was no wifi. no distractions. it was me and james and our future as a business was waiting somewhere beyond the glade. there was no way he was leaving IKEA. period. further in we go. the path splits. james has heard enough and begins to power up the path leaving me huffing and puffing behind. i chose a path that takes me in the same direction but offers a darker view of the landscape. five minutes in i realize i have wondered from the path. true story and a hell of a metaphor. standing 1200 ft in the air with another 800+ to go, i realize that outsourcing everything we now create by hand will rip out our soul. what am i going to do? i cannot do everything. actually, i can’t but we can. i will wait until we make it to the top of the mountain, past the woods where he can rest and have a beer, i can have some soup. i will live to fight another day. and speaking of losing one’s soul. i’ve come to the realization that good people who want to work in concert but don’t fathom the soul of the operation only lead us further astray. it is not a judgement. it is a fact. everyone has an agenda. everyone needs something. if i can get you to do this then i can do that. but that’s not how they say it. it becomes more of “this is such a great opportunity. why don’t you want to do this?” howling. howling. more trees. so many trees. where is the path? there are wolves in these woods. one midnight gone.

     

    when we began this journey ten years ago, never did i expect to give up control of anything. we went into these metaphorical woods the first time back in 2008 when we had just moved to 13th street, taken out a sizable loan and the bottom fell out of the retail market. panic was not an option. what must we do? how best to proceed? what do we lack that we must possess? what can we trade? we learned a great deal in that year that has forged the path to the present. growth can happen anywhere, at any time, if only you are willing. my life for the past 10 years has been an exercise in letting go of my attachment to the results. people come and go. the climate changes. i did not think we would be winning Greater Philadelphia’s Chamber of Commerce Retailer of the Year for 2015. i did not even know i wanted it. but here we are. i could not imagine james would come back to the business we built together but life has it’s own rhythm. my nephew is training to lead the new company we are creating for our manufacturing arm of the company. my niece will be running the salon. sarah is taking charge of the creative vision for the studio. cory is stepping up to co-manage the daily floor operations. wilson concepts is leading the online projects. letting go has taught me that effective leadership has nothing to do with control. creating a solid team of talented individuals has changed me in ways i would never have imagined. now i am tasked with building and funding our future. part of the process is lifting your skirt to underwriters so they can see everything more clearly. it’s intimidating i’ll admit but not prohibitively. we’re dealing honorably so we get to keep our soul.

     

    months ago i was in a big hurry to introduce the world to my vision for the next step in the life of duross & langel. when you stray from the path, you can find your way back. my priorities were out of whack. i couldn’t leave well enough alone and allow the process to create the moment. i’ve been trying to force this process before it was ready. i have been attempting to promote something no one can understand because it has not yet been born. i know that tree. we’ve been this way before. stand still and be quiet. i hear something. follow that sound. sometimes the most difficult decisions are the most obvious. so you put everything you think you know aside and open up to what there is to see. and the ones still wandering in the woods? well, they have to find whatever they are looking for on their own journey.

     

  • why your first husband should move to europe and other things i learned this year

    climbing2 climbing

    only hours away from another birthday, i like to look back and reassess. 365 days. it is my new year. my hair is graying. my eyes are a joke. but i have health and i have strength. so damn near anything is possible.

    encouraging my first husband and business partner to move to europe was a most selfish act. though he didn’t need much encouragement, i thought it would be better if he were far away. i was right but not for the reasons i had imagined. last weekend i climbed a 1500 foot high Austrian castle with james and our friends. the end of the marriage was, for a few years, the emotional equivalent of having my ass hanging off a cliff. now we are climbing together. funny that. divorce doesn’t have to be the lifetime movie saga people expect it to be. i am very glad he chose Austria because i do love the country.

     

    san juan gang

    i profoundly enjoy the people with whom i work. each aspect of the business bring new challenges. some exciting and embracing. some suck. most days i pray that i won’t say something stupid like fuck in front of a five year old. there are days when i am annoying or obnoxious or silly. anything less would be inauthentic. though we strive to stay on-point, you never know what the next moment will bring. any way you slice it, i am a part of a team. accepting of my team and their acceptance of me makes my life more joyful. nobody is perfect. certainly not me. we are lucky. blessed actually.

     

    emily

    having an alarm system installed in the loft offers more security. it has a camera so i never know what i’m going to see if i check in on the dogs. even in the dark. now that’s funny. except when i forget it’s armed and the alarm begins to whail.

     

    sarah

    choosing the right work wife is the difference between a slice of heaven or a hellish grind from which there is no escape. come on, who on earth but our Sarah would put on a dirndl and trapse with me through Saltzburg on a self-guided Sound of Music Tour? or when asked which of her top three dessert choices at the Hotel Sacher she would order, the reply came “all three” (and we ate very last bit too). my work wife is a force of nature who has been firmly beside me almost eight years. i look forward to building a lifetime of memories with my pal and right hand.

     

    me dogs

    a good photo can make anyone feel ageless. this one taken by renown local photographer Courtney Apple captured me in an off moment. with a storm raging outside my window, the pups pushed in, and while Courtney was testing her flash, this pictured was snapped. i think she would agree that the best moments sometimes happen by themselves. not so long ago i looked up into the mirror and saw a much older man than lived in my imagination. it’s not about beauty or vanity. merely the result of years. this picture reminds me that i can still be surprised by myself. the dogs are cute regardless.

     

    boys baby santamacibaby shirk

    for every year that passes, new wonders fill my world. braden, gavin, giada, and this year maci and mckenzie. they will come to remember me as that old uncle who said goofy stuff and always had their back. if that is the cost of growing older then i will gladly pay. my nine nieces and nephews have given me a lifetime of pleasure and memories, filled my life with meaning, offered abundant love and always made me feel like i was very special. on most days they still do. as we continue to build duross & langel, some have chosen to join us. it can be a tricky thing working with family. time will tell but i think we have a good chance of success as a family business. and we don’t talk shop outside of work. love seems like as good a foundation to build upon as any. if everything in life is a gamble, i like my odds.

     

  • entering a post workshop world

    as most D+L shoppers have come to learn, our natural products are made by hand. for this we have always taken great pride. from the very beginning, we batched soap in the basement of the house and mixed lotions and potions until we became first class wizards. as the years have gone by and we’ve gotten busier, it’s become impossible to make everything in house, especially when the base ingredients for the soap are now made in 2500 to 5000 increments. this is a good thing. then it became time for the bottles products (shower gels, shampoos, moisture creams, etc) to move into production at our family run laboratory. then perfumes, essential oils, candles… now the last of the lot, balms, butters and salves, are heading to another local production facility. as of august, our in-house facility is transforming into a test kitchen where we can still make prototypes and test batches for our own use. what works will then go off-site to be produced. for better or worse, this is how it must be.

     

    for every product that we send off to be produced (still made by hand), another person gets a job. that is after all what we strive for as a quintessential american business, no? our goal to building our own local production facility has begun to occur, and in order to continue to grow while offering you the kind of quality and customer service we hope you enjoy, something has to bridge the divide. growing a small business is not always as easy as one might imagine, especially when the FDA and Insurance Companies are involved. it takes a series of very deep breaths indeed to send off a labor of love as one’s daily life transforms into something new. making money and making money are not the same thing. going into copious amounts of debt is not necessarily something we embrace. taking care of our team is priority. and seriously, if you are going to grow, the gravy gets sopped up with the dry biscuit of expansion. there are always investors who make offers from time to time, but if we go that route, it cannot be on anyone’s time schedule but our own. remember Haddonfield?

     

    currently we are working on two projects with Drexel’s LeBow School of Business. it helps to have many minds working toward the same goals. James Langel is stepping back into a greater role within the company now that things are becoming really interesting. well, interesting in a way that only an MBA with a background in retail and finance like James could enjoy. funny how things come full circle. life is change. embrace it or wither and die.

     

    for the record, most of what i have written about off-site production has been in place in some form or another for years. we tend to see how it goes before we share the specifics, just in case we have to tweak. there have been a couple minor bumps in the road but always the feedback has been helpful to perfecting.

     

    now i am CEO. a title. a post. a place where i enter a post workshop world.

     

     

  • i love children. some parents not so much

    yesterday i was accused of harboring some resentment toward two little girls in the store. they were about 5 or 6 years old, bright and filled with energy (or sugar) and couldn’t stop running from one thing to the next, touching everything. a natural reaction for almost any child. the place can be a bit overwhelming to all the senses. toward the end of their visit the mother informed cory quite curtly that they would be leaving soon and would stop touching everything. cory stated that it really didn’t matter to him, that the children were fine and that we didn’t mind. the mother pointed at me and said “yes, but he does.” i did not acknowledge the comment, rather kept working with my head down and let it go.

    i kept an eye on these girls because the parents were mostly not and i am responsible for the safety of my clients. then a moment occurred when one little girl was refused something and she became loud and willful (with a dash of nasty) to her father, as children sometimes can be, that i reacted nonverbally by being taken aback. i guess the mom caught my reaction. the parents reasoned with the children to no avail. speaking as an uncle, i am aware that the job of parent is altogether dissimilar to my job as an uncle. i get that. my response to any child is usually along the lines of “oh i know you didn’t just say that to me” or “who just said that?! i know it wasn’t you because i do not put up with that.” it is said in a stern yet slightly comic way to cue the kid of where my boundaries lie. so far it has worked with the nine nieces and nephews i have, and it’s been working with the successive generation as well. what i don’t get is how a 40 something reasons with a five year old and loses? that’s just bullshit and no matter how i try to hide my feelings, they will always show on my face. kudos to the moms who say no and then enforce it by dropping everything and taking their kids outside to deal with the issue. i might lose a sale, but we all gain years from now when the child has an appropriate sense of social behavior. for the record, i don’t think the “terrible twos” are germane to my point for obvious reasons. the screaming bothers me but not so much that i can’t smile quietly on the inside. it’s awful and funny to watch a parent try to deal with that phase, all the while feeling blessed that this is not my path.

    like bicycles on the sidewalk or people who walk their dogs while texting, i find the experience of neglected children within a confined space prohibitively disrespectful. it also creates a bad experience for other shoppers. once when shopping in the men’s department of strawbridge & clothier some years back, a clerk bellowed “madam, control your child!”. imagine me saying that today? kids will touch and smell and be ensorcelled by our store, and yes, i want the experience to be magical for them. but mom and dad should be tandem shoppers with these little kids, teaching them an appropriate shopping experience. we have many many awesome families with kids of all ages who come in together and work as a team to find new, fun stuff as well as the family’s favorites. we always welcome our families but it must be obvious that a visit to D+L is vastly divergent to the local IKEA. no ball pits, no kids section, simply an apothecary store full of glass jars and grown up potions. kids often need help in learning to access our goods and we are happy to oblige. moms and dads are welcome to ask for assistance in showing our goods to little ones. we are encouraged to find the time. if things are too busy in the store, then we can always give them a project. duross & langel can be a learning experience on many levels from sharing the story of who we are, how we make things to teaching a bit about what they are seeing and smelling. parents, if you engage us into the experience, we promise you a lovely time in our store.

  • honeycombed

    Natural hair care products are picking up steam in today’s beauty market. To keep you up-to-date on what’s out there, City Paper’s Cassie Owens is spearheading a weeklong series that highlights locally based natural product manufacturers.

    I could write that Steve Duross of Duross & Langel (117 S. 13th St., 215-592-SOAP) is passionate about soap, but that would be a severe understatement. “I have to say, “ he told me, “that the time that I spend in the kitchen making the products — that’s what I love.”  Like Water for Chocolate “all my good feelings, good intentions, they’re all happening when I’m up in the kitchen.”

    Duross & Langel’s products are not just backed by good intentions. The acumen behind their natural concoctions is profound. Steve Duross is a master soapmaker with a degree in cosmetology. Combining inventive formulas and grass-roots philosophy, it seems that Duross & Langel rarely disappoints. They are a mainstay in Philly’s Best of Yelp and continue to be one of the city’s best-reviewed shopping destinations.

    The store embodies a “360-degree approach” to natural soaps and cosmetics. They support the greener, more sustainable options at every turn. They manufacture their products in store using 96 percent botanicals (a very high percentage,) source their ingredients locally and package in bottles and jars made in the tri-state area and bags and boxes made from 100% recycled paper.

    The hair care line is really exciting. They offer moisturizing, pH balanced options for an array of hair types. I decided to try the hair mask, and no, I don’t have a single criticism. Anyone looking for products that are equally cosmetically beneficial and environmentally conscious should take a trip to the store

  • 2014 Drink Nation Dad’s Day Guide

    by The Drink Nation on Jun 10, 2014 in Culture
    2014 Drink Nation Father s Day Gift Guide

    06) Duross & Langel Beer Soap Philadelphia-based small-batch soap makers Duross & Langel just rolled out a new line of handcrafted soaps for men that are inspired by a handful of popular craft brews. They include Yards Philadelphia Pale Ale, which mimics the grassy hops and citrus notes of the brewery’s flagship ale with a touch of coriander and clove. The soap has Shea butter added for moisture; Bananas and Blow, which takes cues from Shorts Brewing Company’s Bananas and Blow with creamy banana and vanilla blended with a smooth American lager; Polygamy Porter, which draws on Wasatch Brewery’s Polygamy Porter and features spicy notes of pepper, coriander and cumin; and Hop Devil, a soap that’s made with citrus and pine notes and natural hops to mirror the aromas in Victory Brewing Company’s popular hoppy, red ale.

    - See more at: http://philly.thedrinknation.com/articles/gallery/12994-1888-2014-Drink-Nation-Fathers-Day-Gift-Guide-#gallery

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