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Area's history is part of Martinsville Soapworks

Martinsville Soapworks

BY: Nancy Fischer, Published: May 4, 2014, Thursday May 22, 2014, The Buffalo News


NORTH TONAWANDA – Back in the middle of the 19th century, Martinsville was a community unto itself at the eastern edge of North Tonawanda. It was also a time when making things by hand was a way of life.

Heather Kalisiak, who grew up in Martinsville, which is now part of North Tonawanda, remains true to her community’s name with her quirky shop, Martinsville Soapwork, and also true to the past when everything was handmade.

Customers of the shop, which recently moved to 88 Webster St., are greeted by an old-fashioned tub filled with artificial bubbles and smells of fresh soap and fragrances.

Once inside, you can explore and smell different soaps and lotions. Like in an old-fashioned candy store, you can press your nose up against a window and watch Kalisiak make and then cut big blocks of tie-dyed soap that will soon be packaged in wrappers that she has designed herself. Like an old-fashioned drugstore, a variety of fragrances lines the shelves behind her, waiting to be mixed into batches of soap.

“My favorite part is cutting the soap because I have no control over how the veins (colors) come out,” she said. “I could make it all one color, but that’s so boring. Fragrance and looks are the two big things. I love what I do: finding new fragrances. And I love shaving the soap.”

The store sells its products online, but those customers miss out on a big part of the experience. Coming inside, customers are encouraged to explore the many fragrances of the original soaps and try out the lotions.

Oatmeal, lime, hazelnut cappuccino, lavender, rum, cherry blossom, honey, even dirt and real coffee are ingredients. The list of soapy scents – also in some cases used for bath confetti, body frostings and lotions –goes on and on.

There also are lip balms that vary from the quirky bacon or dill pickle to chardonnay, orange chocolate, banana nut bread and cotton candy – 116 flavors at last count.

“I encourage people not to save these soaps for special occasions. If you don’t use it every day, you won’t use it up, and you won’t be back for more,” she said.

Kalisiak also has stockpiled her shop full of the history of Martinsville and some of the people who lived there. Martinsville started in 1842, more than 50 years before the City of North Tonawanda. Its identity remains quite strong among those who live there, with a park continuing its name, as well as St. Martin’s Lutheran Church. For a time, it even had its own post office.

Kalisiak is married with two children, Stephen, 16, and Talia, 13. She and her husband, Chris, and father-in-law, Mike, were putting up a new sign for their grand reopening on Webster Street on a beautiful spring day when we met at her shop.

You make all your products and your packaging and also the sign hanging outside?

You’ll find that most of what we do is handmade. I grew up with a very strong work ethic. My grandfather built his house from the ground up. It’s just the family culture. We built it or we just didn’t have it.

What is Martinsville?

I have a lot of respect for the history and the story behind Martinsville. It’s part of North Tonawanda – now. Old Falls Boulevard was the main street, from Niagara Falls Boulevard, to Erie Avenue to Walck Road. It was founded on April 10, 1842. It was founded by a group of Lutheran/Prussian immigrants that named their church St. Martin’s, after Martin Luther. St. Martin’s is still there. It was also the location of one of the lumber mills that gave North Tonawanda it’s nickname of the Lumber City. I have access to a private collection of photographs of Martinsville, from between 1910 to 1930, and copies of those are displayed in the store. The family that owned that mill, these are their photos.

You lived in Martinsville?

I still live in Martinsville. My kids are fifth generation living on the same street. I live next door to my parents, and the house that my grandfather built is across the street. So when I named the business 12 years ago, it was just a natural. At that time it was just Martinsville Emporium because I wasn’t making soap.

You started in your home first?

Yes, then we had a shop on Niagara Falls Boulevard. It was a good location, but cars went fast and weren’t stopping. I needed more foot traffic, and that’s why I decided to move to Webster Street.

Why do you hope people will come here for soap, rather than a drugstore?

There’s a lot of people who will come here. People understand that handmade soap is better for your skin than commercial soap because of the way it is processed. Commercial soap is hyperprocessed, and it doesn’t have any of the glycerin in it anymore.

So you have history and handmade soap. Both are similar in their old-fashioned appeal.

It’s a throwback to when people made things with their hands, and there was that respect for their makers. I grew up on the site of what was once a lumber mill, so I grew up with that history of when, literally, people made things with their hands. And I grew up in a family culture of when people made things with their hands.

When did you first learn how to make soap?

I am entirely self-taught. I started in 2002. It was a quick process, about six months, from selling stuff that was already made to making soap that was from a base, to making stuff from lye. I’m basically a handmade Bath and Body Works, but I don’t use any petroleum products.

We all go to places like that because it smells good.

I am very particular about my fragrances and go through scores and scores of testers. For every 20 testers I get in there is one I will actually test in a product. And for every 10 items that I test, maybe only one of them will become a limited-edition soap. And then if it does really well, I will add a lotion to match it, and if that does well, I will add a shower gel and a body mist and body frosting. My rose soap smells like roses. My lilac soap smells like lilacs. You will know it smells like it says on the label.

What’s the favorite?

Lilac. Men like bay rum. The orange cupcake is my favorite.

And where do you make it?

I make it right here, in the store.

There are other homemade soap makers popping up.

I don’t consider them my competition. Everybody needs soap.

So I guess if you want to try it, you have to come in and smell it.

That’s the best thing about having the store. I’ve sold online and done fairly well, but you need to be able to smell it and try it. I have testers of all the lotions and body frostings. You need to come it and smell it and figure out what … fragrances you like. You can come in and smell everything here.

Information about products and hours are available on Facebook and online at or by phone at 694-4822.

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Dreams become a reality at White Linen Tea House

White Linen Tea House White Linen Tea House

Linda L. Kloch, owner of the White Linen Tea House in Wheatfield, talks about her success in rehabilitating buildings and creating thriving businesses. Derek Gee/Buffalo News

By Nancy Fischer | News Niagara Reporter

on July 27, 2013  

 WHEATFIELD – Linda L. Kloch says she didn’t have much while growing up in the Love Canal area of Niagara Falls, but she sees herself as a woman with a vision, able to see what others have may have dismissed.

She did it once before when she bought and rehabilitated the Country Cottage restaurant in Pendleton nearly 30 years ago, but in the late 1990s she took on another ambitious project.

Each day she drove by a falling-down and dilapidated barn on Shawnee Road, a site others would have made plans to demolish. But Kloch, an avid antiques collector, saw more.

“My friends thought I was nuts,” Kloch said. “But I love to create things.”

Her reclamation of the property began in a building that had once been a corn crib, selling antiques and homemade candles. Her success with the candles, Forever Candles, led to the development of Shawnee Village, 6610 Shawnee Road, a cornucopia of shops on the property she owns. The complex now includes the independently operated Shawnee Country Barn and Antiques co-op; Patricia’s White Linen Mercantile Antiques; and Asti’s Antique Jewelry, as well as Kloch’s restaurant and residence – the White Linen Tea House.

Step inside to see collected antiques throughout the downstairs and sit down to homemade scones, lemon bars and brownies. There is a Sunday buffet; full afternoon tea service with racks of finger sandwiches, dessert and fruit; cold and hot sandwiches; and, of course, tea – more than 40 varieties, as well as coffee. Food is available for takeout. There also are flavored oils, homemade jewelry and antiques. Beer and wine also are available.

When people come, they even receive a little instruction on brewing a perfect cup of tea.

How did you get started?

The corn crib – the front little building – was my first. Now it’s Asti’s.

You must have a love of antiques.

Oh, I do. I knew I wanted to do antiques, and I thought this is just a perfect little place to do that. I wanted to share them with people. That’s why I wanted to open this.

Is this your first restaurant?

I picked up the Country Cottage in 1987. When I saw it, I was a hairdresser. I was going to pick up my mother on my day off. I picked her up once a week to do her hair, and took this road that I didn’t normally take. It happened to be the Country Cottage road. All of sudden I see this building, empty, for sale, and it said price reduced. I was a hairdresser, I owned my own shop in Cambria, and I absolutely loved doing hair, but I always had the vision that someday I wanted to have a little restaurant. When I saw that little place, I had the vision of it already in action.

Had you worked in the food industry?

Yes, my mother had a restaurant in North Tonawanda. She owned Lou’s Restaurant on Webster Street. It’s still there.

What was the Country Cottage like when you found it?

It was a mess. There was a motorcycle parked inside the building. I lived there and took the whole roof off and built it up two levels. I wanted to do a bed-and-breakfast there, but I didn’t ask the town. I ended up selling it before that happened.

But you moved on to this place on Shawnee Road. What made you say you wanted to do something different?

I purchased the barns knowing I wanted to do antiques, and I thought this is the perfect place to do it.

You showed me some pictures. It was pretty run-down.

Everything was run-down. The whole property was run-down.

What was your vision?

I can see things as if they are in action. I had a vision when I was working in the corn crib that I wanted to have a co-op over there in the larger barn. I knew that someday I wanted to do a tea house. I still want to do a bed-and-breakfast here. I saw a community and village in action. I saw people having things. It was too much for me alone.

An antique co-op is an unusual thing.

At one time I worked at Antique World, and I loved how they had all the people around there. I love people. We have 90 dealers in the big barn. There are three buildings, but they are owned privately. I am the landlord.

You also sold candles. How did that start?

It was absolutely out of the blue. I was bored. I had purchased thousands and thousands of antique bottles and started making lotions and candles. I started my candle business, Forever Candles, in the little corn crib. The candle-making business allowed me to fix all of my barns. That’s how much my candles made. I owe a lot to my candles.

I started to do shows, and then I went to the Outlet Mall and then had a permanent home at the Boulevard Mall. We just sold Forever Candles a week ago.

Your friends said you’re crazy, opening up a restaurant in an area where there are more cows and fields than shopping. What did you tell them?

They already thought I was crazy when I opened up the Country Cottage and saw there what I was doing and how much work was done. And they helped me, so they saw it all the way from its worst to the best. I am surrounded by wonderful people, dear friends. I call them my angels. But, honestly, they thought I was crazy. You couldn’t even get into the buildings.

When did you open the White Linen Tea House?

I opened it up with my two daughters 10 years ago. Where does the time go? They have both moved away now.

Why a tea house?

I had nothing as a kid. If we didn’t need it, we didn’t get it, but my cousins played a big part in my life. My aunts and my uncles used to have us over on Sundays, in our Sunday best after church, and there would be coffee and tea on fine china and pastries. I was just a little girl, but I wished I could have this. I never had it, but my mother always gave me little tea sets, and I had a lot of tea parties.

So this is like coming to your house, like family, right?

In the back of my mind, that’s what I was thinking. I have all my nice stuff. I tell all my servers whatever you do make sure that you treat them so special, like they just left their grandmother’s or aunt’s or uncle’s house.

The White Linen Tea House is open for lunches daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Closed Wednesdays.

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Black Willow Winery

Black Willow Winery owner finds a rewarding
'wine' of work

By Teresa Sharp, Buffalo News

BURT – Cynthia West-Chamberlain is involved in every last aspect of winemaking and marketing at her successful Black Willow Winery.

So it’s no wonder that she was recently chosen from a field of candidates across the state as Agricultural Entrepreneur of the Year by the New York State Small Business Development Center.

What is surprising is that she only opened her winery two years ago at 5565 W. Lake Road.

When West-Chamberlain and her husband, Michael Chamberlain, launched their winery, they offered five wines. That selection has grown to 13 wines, including three meads, or honey wines. This helps set them apart from the other 16 wineries on the Niagara Wine Trail.

They also pair their wines with high-end chocolates from Florida, another niche.

Their wines have earned 29 international awards, as well.

“We’re very honored to receive all of these awards,” said West-Chamberlain. “I just do what I do and keep doing it. Even though we’ve gone this far in this short a time, we haven’t gone after the wholesale market yet – the stores that carry our product have come to us.”

She speaks like a true marketing expert, and so it should come as no surprise that this is West-Chamberlain’s background. She was a marketing development manager with Ingram Micro for 14 years before downsizing forced her to find her next career. She is also co-owner, along with her husband, of Milestone Builders in Lockport.

Owning a winery was a longtime dream for the couple, she recalled.

“Every time I’d drive by a new winery, I’d say, ‘That could be me,’ ” she said with a laugh. “This has been a lot more work that I thought it would be, but if you can do the thing you love, it’s very rewarding. We make something that goes from being a grape to being a product on a shelf, and I’m involved in every piece of it.”

West-Chamberlain said she worked closely with the state Small Business Development Center’s Niagara office to start her business and that she continues to work with it.

“Cindy is one of the hardest-working people I’ve ever worked with,” said Maureen Henderson, assistant director of the center’s Niagara office, “and she’s also one of the quickest. When I give her homework, she’s got it right away. She stays focused and knows what she wants, and that’s paid off in the wonderful success of her winery. She’s using her marketing skills, and she has found different niches.”

The state Small Business Development Center provides business counseling and training to New York residents through a network of 24 regional centers, free of charge. The organization annually chooses an Agricultural Entrepreneur of the Year from among its clients across the state who not only runs a successful small business, but also has a positive impact on the local community.

West-Chamberlain was selected to attend the opening of the first New York State Small Business Development Center’s Wine Outlet in Shanghai, China, in October. She was a featured speaker at the center’s April 29 event in Niagara Falls, where she collected her award, discussing her experiences in China. Her wines are now sold in Shanghai, along with selections from two other Niagara Wine Trail wineries, Vizcarra Vineyards at Becker Farms in Gasport and Spring Lake Winery in Lockport.

“We were there for a week, and it was an experience!” she said. “We had a delegation of 14 Chinese officials at our event in April, and they all came back here to our winery. We were the first American winery they had ever visited.”

“They are interested in opening another wine outlet in central China, and they said it will probably take a couple of years, but they’d like me to speak to them about my experiences,” she said.

Henderson noted that West-Chamberlain’s business has grown quickly.

“I’m sure there are a lot more awards in her future,” she said.

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