BY MARIA HERNE
Something magical is happening at 10 E. Main St. in Schuylkill Haven.
Enter the realm of BeautyCraft Co., the unique boutique that just opened in the heart of downtown, and you will be surrounded by a bounty of luxurious delights intended to transform your body and spirit.
Embracing a philosophy of “wicked good self-care,” BeautyCraft Co. is a small-batch apothecary for a variety of handmade beauty remedies, potions, fragrances and skin care products created by “Head Witch in Charge,” owner Michele “Ellie” Holdrum, a Pottsville native, who opened the shop in April.
BeautyCraft offers an alternative to the harsh chemicals and unnatural ingredients found in many mass-produced store-bought beauty products, she said, with handmade bath and skin care products that are 100% vegan, natural and cruelty free.
Holdrum said everything she sells is ethical, from nourishing ingredients to recyclable, earth-friendly packaging and a variety of all natural, handmade body scrubs, soaps, fragrances, oil blends and other products.
“A lot of trial and error and research and experimentation went into all my products. It had to be just right,” she said.
A friendly free spirit with a mane of lilac-hued hair, just like a fairy princess, Holdrum is a practicing Wiccan with a bewitching flair for the dramatic and macabre. A typical workday wardrobe might be a long black lace dress, studded black high-heeled boots, exotic jewelry and cat’s eye makeup.
“From a very young age, I was very artsy and always loved music. My personal style is like one big, crazy mashup of all the things I love,” she said. “It’s like grungy-gothic-hippie chick, with a touch of Halloween.”
Ellie embraced a holistic lifestyle at an early age and began making her own handmade potions and remedies when she couldn’t find anything in the mainstream consumer market that satisfied her body and soul.
“I struggled with anxiety and depression for years,” she said. “I would make myself oils and things like that to help cope with it.”
She worked in the beauty and wellness industry over the years. Her hobby — more so her passion — was tinkering in the kitchen, learning, experimenting and crafting her own handmade beauty products and always promoting a lifestyle of wellness for herself and those around her.
She attended McCann School of Business and Technology and later studied at Empire Beauty School, graduating in 2010. She then decided to further her education by attending TIGI Hair Academy in 2011. Last year, she graduated from the online School of Natural Skincare, with certifications in master formulation and vegan formulation.
The inspiration for BeautyCraft Co. began in November 2019, when the scourge of COVID-19 and the worldwide pandemic had yet hit. Then, laid off from her warehouse job when COVID took its toll on the workforce, Holdrum warded off anxiety and homebound angst by crafting potions, creams, lotions and soaps in the kitchen of her Pottsville home to sell to family, friends and neighbors, as a way to make some money.
“It was scary, because that’s when the pandemic basically just started,” she recalled. “I was determined to be self-employed after being laid off due to COVID at my warehouse job. It was going really well the first few months … but then I could tell when the world was really starting to struggle. It became very hard to sell. Things were touch and go … It’s like the whole world shares the struggles together. So we all sort of feel the highs and lows at the same time.”
But Ellie followed her heart and her belief in herself, and launched a new path.
“It became my sole source of income,” she said.
A pandemic boost
She branched out by selling her products online on Etsy. Other online opportunities followed, created by her own BeautyCraft Co. website, an empowering entrepreneurial move she attributes to the unprecedented business climate created by the pandemic.
“I will say that since the pandemic started, and more and more people have had to work from home or got laid off, the small business community is growing, and I think it’s absolutely amazing to see,” she said. “We all support each other. It’s nice seeing a lot of people take charge of their lives and be in control of their own income, especially women-owned businesses.”
When the opportunity to expand her online business to a brick-and-mortar storefront arose early this year, Ellie leaped at the chance.
She runs the business with her husband, James. The couple got married in March 2020 during the early days of the COVID pandemic.
“I know not many people can say this, but I honestly love working with my husband,” she said. “We share a very strong, positive outlook on life and we are both so open-minded. He’s been a constant inspiration in so many ways for BeautyCraft. And he’s kept me driven and forward thinking since the day I decided to create Beauty-Craft.”
“I’m kind of like her guinea pig,” laughed James, who tests out his wife’s new products and gives her feedback on whether he thinks it’s a good fit for the brand.
“He is the first person I turn to when I’m conflicted because he is always 100% honest and I trust his opinion,” Ellie said. “Having his support, day in and day out, has been a blessing because starting your own business is far from easy and I’ve definitely had my self-doubt days. But he’s always helped me work through them.”
The couple found a storefront for rent, a former barbershop, in Schuylkill Haven and, working with the property owners, they leased the space and began creating the perfect environment for their “self-care coven.”
They painted the walls a soothing shade of lilac and accented the woodwork with black paint for an darkly elegant, ethereal vibe. They scoured vintage and second-hand shops looking for furniture.
“We were really trying to achieve the right aesthetic to go with our products,” James said.
James restored and repainted an ornate mantel that serves as a display for products and accent pieces. Vintage cabinets and a table were painted black and store and display essential oil fragrances, soaps, bath scrubs, tattoo balms and lotions.
A vintage sink was hauled up from the basement and restored with new fixtures to serve as a customer testing station for scrubs, soaps, milks and other bath products.
“The property was a good fit,” Ellie said. “I fell in love with the old architecture in this place.”
Some customer “fan favorites” are Holdrum’s signature original handmade fragrances — 12 bewitching blends in all, so far — in pretty, purse-sized glass spray bottles.
There’s Lilith, a sweet and seductive blend with notes of coffee, vanilla, cream, orange blossom, cedarwood and patchouli or perhaps Basic Witch, a sweet and sultry magical concoction with notes of bergamot, cassis, rose, neroli, jasmine and smoky musk or maybe the mood-elevating Levitiate, a complex infusion of grapefruit, lavender, ylang ylang and clary sage oils.
Ellie’s handmade Obsidian tattoo balm, which she uses herself to preserve and protect her many tattoos, is also popular among her customers, and is even being sold in some local tattoo studios.
Since opening her shop, business has been good, as word get out and more people discover the mystical oasis in their midst.
“We’re happy to be here in the Schuylkill Haven community,” James said. “There’s a lot going on down here. Everyone has been very welcoming.”
The couple are hopeful that through their hard work, their hopes and dreams will come true.
“I’ve always believed strongly in karma and energy, and that what you put into the universe, you get back,” Ellie said.
She hopes to empower other entrepreneurs, including women trying to find their calling and make their mark on the world.
“My mindset today is very different from what it was 12 years ago,” she said. “Unfortunately, I had to experience a lot of negative things in my life to get where I am now. I had the choice of letting it ruin my life or I could take the lemons and make lemonade. So I made some pretty awesome lemonade.”
Ellie said she began working on herself and doing things that made her happy.
“When my mindset changed, and I realized I was in control of my happiness and what my daily outcomes were, it honestly changed my life. I felt like I won the lottery. Then I just wanted to help others find their way,” she said.
Ellie hopes that Beauty-Craft can offer more than products that make your body look, feel and smell beautiful. She wants it to be a safe haven where everyone who walks through the door feels warmly welcomed and accepted, where they can fully embrace the importance of self-care and self-love.
Her secret to a beautiful life? “Be kind, not just to others, but also yourself. Live life to make YOU happy. And LIVE your life, don’t just exist. Travel, eat, learn and experience as many wonders on this big beautiful planet as you possibly can. You are responsible for your own happiness.”
And one final beauty secret from Mistress Ellie Holdrum: “Be your true self, unapologetically. Always.”
For more information on BeautyCraft Co., visit them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and www.beautycraftcompany.com.