Retired couple opens handmade soap, wine store in Alliance

2022-03-25 09:55:21 By : Mr. Henry Wang

ALLIANCE – The scents of eucalyptus and peppermint fill the air in a quaint storefront on North Freedom Avenue, where Beth Polito spends most of her days making soaps in the small studio on the first floor. 

"It takes me about two hours to make one batch," she said. "I only use wooden soap molds. It's the all-natural process. So these are lined with parchment paper, and then it's a mixture of my oils that I've designed." 

A short distance from Polito's soap-making studio is a bar area lined with wine racks.  

Polito and her husband, Dennis, recently opened Cielo Soaps and Wine at the Crossing in Alliance, a unique shop that sells handmade soaps and an assortment of sparkling, red and white wine.

The owners offer private soap-making events and eventually hope to expand and host wine tastings. 

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Polito, who has a doctorate of psychology in organizational development, began making soaps in 2016. She had recently retired after years of working as a consultant for businesses, helping them learn the importance of emotional wellness in the workplace. 

She was having issues with her own skin and decided after some research that she wanted to design her own soap. From there, soap-making turned into a hobby that later became a business. 

Polito created Cielo Soaps and started selling her products online. 

"My whole branding around this soap is that it's all about your emotional wellness through sight, scent and touch," she said. 

Polito uses the cold soap-making process, a technique that involves mixing oils with sodium hydroxide or lye, causing a chemical reaction that creates soap.

Her business continued to grow for several years. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Dennis Polito suggested the couple find a place where they could live and Polito could make and sell her soap.  

The couple has children living in Vermilion and Pittsburgh, so they wanted to find a location between the two cities. The building at 202 N. Freedom Ave. seemed like a perfect fit. 

The property previously served as a restaurant, which gave the Politos another idea for how they could make use of it.  

"This one came with a D5 liquor license, so when we found out it had the liquor license with it, then my husband said 'Well, look at this space. The soap studio can be back here, and I can open up wine retail in the bar,'" Polito said. 

The couple purchased the property and started renovating the building last summer. 

"The bar was already here," Polito said. "All we did was add some paint and cleaned and got in all new furniture. We did put a new roof on the building, we put in all new windows on the second floor." 

The building was constructed in 1885, she said, but they were able to keep some parts of the original structure, including the second-floor bar and a couple of windows they turned into a wall display.  

Polito said the business has been a great opportunity for both she and her husband to explore their interests. 

The Politos visited various wineries when they lived in California, and Dennis Polito sold wine for a brief period. Polito said her husband enjoys finding unique blends to carry in the store.

The goal, she said, is for customers to be able to try "wine you haven't tasted yet."

They have also combined the two aspects of the business to host private soap-making events. Polito works with customers to help them come up with their own soap design and blend of essential oils.

While Polito makes the soap, the customers receive a glass of champagne courtesy of Wine at the Crossing. The soap takes four to six weeks to cure, and then customers can return to the store to pick up the finished product. 

Alliance Area Chamber of Commerce President Mark Locke believes the store will do well in the city.

"It's a great fit for downtown because it's turning into kind of an arts district," he said. 

Cielo Soaps and Wine at the Crossing hosted the chamber of commerce's Business After Hours, a regular networking event that gives Alliance business owners an opportunity to connect and socialize. 

Locke said the event had a good turnout. 

In the future, Polito said they plan to offer wine tastings and other private events. 

"It's been fabulous (so far)," she said. 

Cielo Soaps and Wine at the Crossing is open Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. 

Reach Paige at 330-580-8577 or, or on Twitter at @paigembenn.