One of my favourite hidden nooks in Johannesburg is 44 Stanley in Milpark, a secret “garden” that yields lovely new discoveries every single time I visit. The last time I was there, it was the delightfully charming Bed Bath Body that jumped onto my radar.
44 Stanley is an intimate and carefully curated collection of stores and businesses, located on a relatively quiet side street. You might never notice the quaint entrance with its open gates and metal signage unless you’re specifically looking for it.
But walk through the entrance and you’ll find yourself meandering down an open passageway nestled between refurbished industrial buildings dating back to the 1930s, flanked by Wyatt Hairdressing (my favourite salon), The Leopard (the beloved Melville staple which has relocated here and transformed into a deli), and clothing boutiques like Hse of Bespoke. Wander in a little further and you’ll discover two sun-dappled courtyards, surrounded by cafes, restaurants, and shops featuring everything from high-end local designers to bespoke tailors to vintage goods.
If you haven’t spent some time here, put it on your to-do list because the idyllic 44 Stanley is a breath of fresh air (literally) and a welcome relief from the copycat shopping centres that are all filled with the same stores and restaurants. And this is the perfect place for boutique brands like Bed Bath Body.
It all started with a lazy, weekday boozy lunch with my bestie. (Listen, sometimes a girl just needs to tear herself away from the laptop and luckily, working from home means I have a modicum of flexibility with my schedule!)
As we slowly made our way back through the courtyard complex after lunch, I found myself peeking into the window of Bed Bath Body, located near Wyatt Hairdressing. A soft cloud of fragrances beckoned me in and I was cheerily greeted by Georgia, who was in the corner manning the store.
I was also warmly welcomed by Lisa, who appeared a few minutes later and who I initially thought might be another shop assistant. But when she enthusiastically started speaking about the brand in detail, I caught on that she might be someone who held the business a bit closer to heart. She’ll modestly say that she “just” does the marketing, or that it’s a family business (which it is) but I’m going to call her the Creative Director / Boss Lady of Bed Bath Body.
Lisa’s parents started their company back in 2003, which produces and sells various home and body products throughout South Africa. The catch is that the two main branches, JE Living and Classy Kitchen, are wholesale lines. Bed Bath Body is retail and allows the family to have a bit of fun and the freedom to play around with different products and approaches. The brand is about “feel good” products to elevate you and your home, from diffusers to bath salts to lotions to soaps.
The Johannesburg space is teeny tiny but it’s been maximised with simple decor and neutral colours for an airy and open vibe. There’s a table that takes up a bulk of the space but it’s well worth it since you can unabashedly sniff and test all the products there.
All 8 fragrances, simply numbered 0-7, are lined up around the tabletop, with diffusers and various body products. Each number is supplemented by a secondary name (like the popular #5, which is also known as “Fresh Fig”) and a little card on the table describes the different notes in the fragrance as well as the personality associated with it, which are rather fun to read through if you’re a fan of that kind of stuff (I am).
How It All Started
Lisa was in the wedding planning industry earlier this year but then her mother dropped the idea of working for the family business and taking on the Bed Bath Body line. Ready to take a break from the hectic event planning lifestyle (long hours, no weekends, demanding clients), Lisa jumped at the chance and joined her parents in April this year. They laid out a 5-year plan that would start with working on the website and marketing and doing a weekly blog, and then eventually lead to opening up a brick and mortar shop.
But that 5-year plan turned into a 3-month plan.
In May, they decided to try out a pop-up shop concept for 2 months and got in touch with Pop Up Shop Shop (that’s not a typo!). Appointments were scheduled and within a week or so, Bed Bath Body had moved into the space at 44 Stanley. In mid-July, they signed a lease on the space, turning the pop-up into a permanent store, and now also have stores in Parys (Free State) and Hilton (Kwazulu-Natal).
As you can imagine, Lisa’s got her hands full! Not to mention that her dad’s goal is to have 6-8 shops open by the end of the year. Eek!
Oh, by the way, did I mention that Lisa’s only 23?
The Fragrances And Their Personalities
The fragrances run from masculine to floral to sweet, so there’s something for everyone. And then there’s #0, which is a fragrance-free line put together after the family discovered quite a few clients had allergies or sensitivities. There’s no diffuser, of course, but you can still enjoy the other products like the soaps and lotions.
They’ve already developed about 20 fragrances for the line but Lisa and the family decided to start small with their selection. The main reason why they only have 8 fragrances at the moment, though, is that the shelves could only fit that many!
The personalities for each one were written by Lisa, her mother, and grandmother, and those attributes have been aggregated from years of selling at trade shows and observing their clientele and picking up on certain trends and patterns. It’s no set science, of course, and mostly done in fun, but the little blurbs filled with positive characteristics add an extra personal touch to help create a connection between you and the fragrances.
Surprisingly, Lisa said that I was one of the first “real” people to actually read the personalities and take them into consideration. Most of the people at the Johannesburg location have come in and simply asked for the most popular seller.
In case you’re wondering, #5 (Fresh Fig) is the most popular one in Johannesburg, along with #3, but #4 and #6 are often passed over. In Hilton, #4 is popular but #5 doesn’t really sell. And in Parys, they’re all about #2 and #3. Go figure!
Branding And Design
The personal touch Lisa brings to the brand is its design – she brings in a fresh, modern perspective that is appealing to retail clientele. Considering the company produces 20+ different wholesale ranges and over 74 fragrances, it’s easy to understand why she wanted to use the number system for Bed Bath Body and work with clean aesthetics. The branding and design were put together by Lisa and her mother (a former Calvin Klein clothing designer) within 6 hours during a brainstorming session one morning. Not bad, hey?
Blending minimalism and rustic-chic, the store finishings are industrial, combining wood with metal fixtures. All of the bottles are medicine bottle brown with black and white labels, which reminded me of Aesop at first glance. The handmade ceramic diffuser vessels are only offered in black or white (though Lisa mentioned that her dad had slipped in a few blue ones in a recent shipment from the factory). The bags and additional packaging are either natural brown paper or a white muslin-like fabric and twine.
In a go-go-go world where we’re constantly having all sorts of stimuli thrown at us from every direction, it’s soothing to pare down to the basics. Bed Bath Body is clear in who they are and what they offer and the numbers make it easy for people to identify which scent they like, instead of trying to remember some fancy name.
Growing The Brand
Why invest your time and talent into someone else’s business when you can focus your efforts on your family’s business? Lisa happily and completely immerses herself in growing the brand. She trains all of the staff herself, travelling between the 3 stores and making sure everything’s up to standard.
This open, hands-on, and down to earth style is a family thing. The entire Schoeman clan is the type to welcome you in for a cup of tea and a good laugh, whether they’ve known you for 5 minutes or 5 years. They focus on community and love to bring people in and make them feel like a part of the family.
Her parents have more or less given her free rein over the brand but Lisa actually prefers to collaborate and make sure that everyone is in agreement. After all, it is a family business. She remembers the early days when her parents were just starting out – there were times when they weren’t sure if they could make rent, so she has a deep respect and appreciation for how hard her mom and dad have worked to get the company to where it is.
If You Take Care Of Your Employees…
At their factory in New Hanover, Lisa’s father will often get KFC for all of the staff on a Friday afternoon, just because (and it’s a pretty hefty order at 30 or so boxes of chicken!). At the end of the year, they’ll all pile into a taxi bus and head to the dam to have a braai (South Africa’s version of a barbecue) and celebrate another year’s hard work. If Lisa and her dad are at odds about a decision and the main family members can’t come to an unanimous agreement, they’ll ask the opinion of every single worker and have them vote.
(Upon hearing this, I mentioned how in line it is with Richard Branson’s “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your business” ethos.)
With Lisa, she tries to make sure there’s no sense of hierarchy with staff. It might be “her” shop but no one is better than anyone else. That’s not to say that she doesn’t put her foot down when needed. Apparently she recently had to scold her younger sister (who’s been helping out on the weekends) for being 7 minutes late. Routine and reliability come first, sisters or not!
Ethically Priced, Locally Sourced
The other things that make Bed Bath Body stand out are the pricing and quality. How many times have we bought a fancy candle that turns out to be mediocre at best or an expensive diffuser that fades in a couple of months? The family takes an ethical approach and fairly charges what the product itself is worth, not what fancy packaging or market trends dictate. Their diffusers, for example, are oil-based (instead of alcohol-based) and can last up to an entire year.
Their love for South African trade means that they’re dedicated to supporting local, so every single one of their products is made, sourced, bought, and sold here.
You know by now that while we’re about indulgence and luxury, those don’t necessarily equate with being super expensive or exclusive. The approachable nature of Bed Bath Body, along with its simplicity and focus on supporting local, are what make it an everyday indulgence that you never have to feel guilty about. Plus, Lisa is super sweet and friendly, so don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation with her if she’s around…that is if she doesn’t start chatting with you first!
I ended up leaving with one of their handmade ceramic diffuser vessels and a bottle of #6 (aka “Sunrise”) and my bedroom/home office has been smelling pretty ever since!
Johannesburg: 44 Stanley, Milpark
Parys: En-Style, 100 Bree Street
Hilton: The Quarry Centre, Shop 11, 57 Hilton Avenue