Right next to the State Theatre and a short walk from the Commons stands a small shop called The Bloomwell. Walk inside, and one is instantly greeted by shelves lined with dozens of products with brands that some might not even recognize.
Owners Johanna Baena and Zach Wasmer, however, know these brands well and can even tell you the story behind them. And that feeling of discovery and knowing what goes into the products we use is exactly why they opened their business downtown.
The Bloomwell, described as a “modern lifestyle store” on its website, sells everything from cosmetics and skin care products to tea and snacks, all artisanal brands from small-batch producers who “prioritize simple, superior and sustainable ingredients,” according to its Facebook page. It officially opened in September, and its opening was celebrated with a ribbon cutting on Nov. 7.
Baena and Wasmer both have a passion for clean living and using products with simple ingredients.
“Our time studying abroad in Europe reinforced some of the values that we had for the products that we used,” Wasmer said. “The culture in Europe, they’re much more conscientious of the products and how they’re sourced.”
So, after Baena graduated from Cornell University and Wasmer was in between careers, they decided to turn that passion into a business model, wanting to fill some gaps they saw in the local market for high-quality products from small-batch producers.
“We already used a lot of these products, and there really wasn’t a local place where I could go to test out cosmetics aside from driving to New York City, especially the brands that we’re carrying,” Baena said. “We wanted to have a place where people could come in and discover these new brands that perhaps they’ve interacted with online and haven’t had a chance to experience in person.”
Even though Baena and Wasmer are filling a gap, they said they still fit into the culture of downtown, with local producers and well-sourced ingredients.
“We felt that Ithaca was a really health-conscience community and really appreciated wellness products,” Baena said.
Opening The Bloomwell was a process that took over a year to complete, between researching brands and their producers, deciding what to carry and finding a space to put it all. Baena described the process of finding products for the store as a real journey in itself, discovering new brands and products that added to the collection and went beyond just makeup.
“Once you enter this world of really researching the ingredients and the products that you’re using, it’s like you just go down a rabbit hole and you just want more and more,” she said.
All along the way, one thing remained a priority – creating a human connection with the creators of the products. They always talked to the people whose products they sell – whether in person or digitally – to get the story behind them.
“That was really important to us, that there was a human story behind every product that we have and it wasn’t something mass produced,” Baena said.
Deciding the layout had that same theme of discovery, wanting to create an inviting atmosphere that accentuated everything on the shelves. As a result, the store has all white walls and plenty of lighting.
“We wanted to create a space that was really bright and airy,” Baena said. “By having the white, it allows the products to really shine and stand out.”
Baena and Wasmer said that, since opening, they have attracted mostly women into their store, but their products are meant for anyone.
“All of these products are gender-neutral,” Baena said. “They just tend to be marketed to women, and I think that’s a big misconception. Anyone can look better.”
Baena said Wasmer is partly to thank for that inclusivity, as he uses his experience with products to turn The Bloomwell into a nontraditional beauty and wellness store.
“We’re all humans,” Wasmer said. “We all use products on our skins or on our bodies or consume products, so we’re all affected by things that you use in your day-to-day life, and they’re just important for people, not just women.”
Everyone that’s come into The Bloomwell has provided good feedback, and the pair are still trying to reach even more people and show Ithacans where they are and what they have to offer. Part of that was their grand opening, held in October, and their social media pages call back to the online home of many of their products.
Baena and Wasmer said they have room to grow and plan to expand in the near future, bringing more products and brands to discover and possibly even moving to a bigger place.
“The more brands that we can bring in, the better,” Baena said. “Being able to show this community these new brands that perhaps they haven’t seen and acting as that branch for them to discover – I think that’s been really fun for me.”
On top of that, the two hope to hire additional employees soon, as they’re the only people running the store currently. For now, the couple have their sights set on this winter, where they’ll have plenty of fresh samples of their products for people to come in and try, like well-sourced coffee, tea and cosmetics.
“There’s always something here for you to try,” Baena said. “It should be a really fun experience, something really … different from traditional store shopping.”
The Bloomwell is located at 111 W. State St. in Ithaca and is open Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
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