Star + Splendor: Soap sales have led to ‘healing-arts’ center

Ami Lahoff

The Enterprise — Michael Koff
For sale: Ami Lahoff, at her shop on South Main Street in Voorheesville.

VOORHEESVILLE — During the holiday season, her busy season, Ami Lahoff was looking only for a clean space where she could continue to hand make her Skipping Goat Farm skincare and soap products.

The 220-year-old farmhouse in Westerlo she shares with her husband, Colin Wilkinson, has for some time been “under some serious renovation.” And plaster dust, it turns out, isn’t among the ingredients that will keep a person’s skin looking taut and youthful.  

After looking and finding nothing, Lahoff placed an ad on Craigslist explaining exactly what she was looking for and, soon enough, she was contacted by the previous tenant of 34 South Main St. in Voorheesville, a retail space located 15 minutes from her home. After checking out the space, she said to herself, “I guess I’m putting a shop in there.” 

Star + Splendor opened in November of last year, and, already, the shop has expanded. 

In addition to selling Lahoff’s Skipping Goat Farm products as well as her handmade beeswax intention candles, Star + Splendor sells local handmade products such as “beautiful, giftable bath and body products,” made by a certified aromatherapist, Lahoff said, and “beautiful gemstone jewelry.” Also for sale are handmade planters and vases; laser-cut, hand-painted, hanging birds and bees; tarot decks; and crystals. 

 “Working with local artisans means that I can work with them to get more of what sells, and not bring in what doesn’t sell, and, also, get new, different things all the time,” she said. “As makers,” the artisans want to be able to create new items, which is exciting for them, and which allows Lahoff to have new products in her shop, which, she said, “I really love.”

In March, Lahoff said, Star + Splendor expanded into what was formerly an accountant’s office but for the past few years it had been used as an apartment. The move has allowed Lahoff to hold events and workshops while also being able to offer yoga and barre classes. Barre fitness combines moves inspired by ballet, done at a barre — a horizontal bar at waist level — with strength-training elements as well.

Lahoff’s 300-square-foot main room accommodates seven in a barre class and 12 in a yoga class. 

Additionally, two rooms have been converted to “healing arts” suites, Lahoff said, which are rented by a local nutritionist, massage therapist, reflexologist, and life coach. 


 Berkshire-bound, winding up in Westerlo

Years ago, when Lahoff and Wilkinson were looking to buy their first home together, the couple had thought they’d move to the Berkshires in western Massachusetts. “And [we] just happened to get a listing,” Lahoff said, for the home they now live in, in Westerlo. 

As they toured the property, the couple came across a cottage and her now-husband said to her that he would like to sleep in the cottage during the summer. She, “for some reason,” decided goats would be a better choice.

Within a couple of months of moving into the home, Lahoff said, she had goats on the property. Soon, it was goat-milk mania. The couple was drinking the milk, and she was making cheese, which, she said, she was told was “out of this world.”

Lahoff was soon offered a full-time job by Etsy, an online marketplace for people buying and selling handmade products, and no longer had time to make cheese. Lahoff left Etsy in September 2018 to make Skipping Goat Farm her full-time job.

She did some research and found that, if she froze their goats’ frozemilk, it could be used year round. When she and Wilkinson were married, Lahoff said, for wedding favors, she made goat’s milk soap — a business was born. 

But does it clean?

“There’s a big difference,” Lahoff said, between the soap and skincare products she hand makes and the stuff bought over-the-counter. There are no preservatives or synthetic fragrances added to Skipping Goat Farm products, she said. Lahoff’s products could, theoretically, be eaten.

For people with sensitive skin or sensitivity to scent, the shop offers an alternative to the typical over-the-counter product that is made up of chemicals that you can’t pronounce, Lahoff said. Her products have labels with ingredients that everyone can read, and, if you can’t, just ask someone in the shop, she said, and they can explain to you the ingredient and why it is in the product.   

But will Skipping Goat Farm soap get the job done?

Well, yes. 

Whether it’s made in a factory or on a farm, soap is the product of a chemical reaction called saponification, which, in Latin, literally means “soap making.”

Throughout the spring and summer, Lahoff hand-milks her goats. The milk is then lightly pasteurized, heated to 130 degrees for about an hour, so that it stabilizes, evenly distributes the fat in the milk, and kills the bacteria. The milk is then put in a bag and flash-frozen. 

Then, when the soap is ready to be made, the bag is taken out of the freezer, the milk is broken into chunks, and lye is added, which triggers a chemical reaction. Beneficial oils are then added, and everything is blended together until the mixture becomes smooth and a little stiff; that’s when more oils or clay can be added.

The soap is then poured into molds, and, after a day or two, it is taken out of the molds and cut it into bars. After three weeks, the soap has been “cured” and is safe to use on skin. If goat-milk soap is used too early, it may irritate skin.

The soaps that Lahoff sells in her shop are “non-drying,” she said, so for people with eczema or people who are easily susceptible to rashes, her soaps offer a non-irritant option. 

Her shaving bars have a higher concentration of natural clay in them, she said. The clay slows down the actual act of shaving, she said, which allows a closer shave without stripping skin of its natural oils while also preventing cuts.

Customers who tend toward razor burn or in-grown hairs, she said, like the shaving bars because they allow for a cleaner shave and less irritated skin. 

“People are becoming more educated about what they put onto their skin; their largest organ,” Lahoff said. “Certain chemicals and fragrances can become endocrine disruptors; they can actually disrupt your natural hormone function.”


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