From Barnyard Chick to Spokane Businesswoman: Tammy Merrill

by Amy McGarry

When Sandy Tarbox, owner of Greencastle Soap and Supply, started thinking about retirement she knew her perfect replacement: Reardan farmgirl, loyal customer, and soap making instructor Tammy Merrill.

“I could never do what you do!” Tammy Merrill insisted.

“I wish you would (do what I do)!” Sandy replied.

This exchange took place six years ago at a time when Tammy could not envision herself taking Sandy’s place, but it planted a seed in Tammy’s mind that would lead to Sandy’s wish coming true….a full six years later, October 1st of this year. Sandy was finally able to retire knowing Greencastle was in the capable hands of its new owner, Tammy Merrill.

How did “just an ordinary soap making, alpaca rescuing, goat loving, plant hoarding, dog crazy kinda (farm) gal” from Reardan become a successful Spokane storeowner and business woman?

It all started with a bar of soap. It was a beautiful bar of soap. It was a handmade bar of soap, gifted by a friend. Most importantly, it was made with natural ingredients that were kind to Tammy’s kids’ sensitive and allergy-prone skin.

This was back in 2008, when Tammy was embracing farm life, drawn to homemade everything. She was determined to learn the art of making soap. Soap making would be a way she could control what she and her loved ones put on their bodies.

Tammy Merrill and Sandy Tarbox
Left to right: Tammy Merrill and Sandy Tarbox

She was directed to Greencastle in Spokane as the place for soap making supplies. Here she met owner Sandy, who encouraged her to take a “proper” soap making class with her. This proper education in soap making led to Tammy creating her own “little business” she called That Barnyard Chick. That Barnyard Chick’s success helped Tammy grow her farm and finance her kids’ extra expenses, like school trips to Washington, D.C. Her business also gave Tammy the opportunity to hone her own soap making skills.

Six years ago, Tammy expanded her repertoire to teaching and began sharing her mastery of soap making in classes.

In the meantime, Sandy was snowbirding in Arizona, building a community there, and planning to sell Greencastle. And Tammy continued to impress Sandy. Sandy approached Tammy again. “She looked me dead in the eye and said, ‘I’m putting the business on the market. You should buy it.’”

“It was such an honor that she thought I could do it,” Tammy explains, but she was still reluctant. Reardan felt so far away from Spokane. She told her husband that Sandy wanted her to buy Greencastle and they “sat on it.” For more than a year.

Then Sandy got serious about retirement and she bought a house in Arizona. She’d had offers on Greencastle, but Sandy knew Tammy was the one. “I was her choice,” Tammy explains. “She told me she wasn’t going to give up until she got a definite ‘no’ from me.”

The seed that had been planted six years ago was starting to sprout. Tammy began working part time at Greencastle, learning the nuts and bolts of the business, teaching classes and making soap out of the shop.

Tammy even introduced a new technique to the shop, bringing in a part of her farm. Sandy’s soap is 100% vegan, using palm, coconut, and olive oils. Tammy added an ingredient readily available from her farm– goat milk. This filled a niche. According to the Greencastle website, “At the beginning of 2022, after years of prodding by customers, we began offering classes in making goat milk soap. Taught by Tammy Merrill, a long time Greencastle customer, soap maker, local farmer, & employee since last fall, her classes have been wildly popular.” Customers can now buy frozen goat milk from Tammy’s goats. “The milk comes pre-measured in the perfect size for use with our soap kits.”

Tammy’s year of experience in the store nurtured her seed to fruition. October 1st of this fall Tammy finally took the helm at Greencastle as the official owner. Tammy’s creativity as a businesswoman is already apparent as she plans to expand Greencastle’s role in the local world of soap making.

One of Tammy’s plans is to expand the online sale of soap making supplies. Where the shop has always catered to the small hobby home soap maker, Tammy sees a demographic of larger producers who she’d like to serve. “I want to be the middleman in the supply chain. We can provide more cost-effective alternatives for bigger producers needing larger amounts of bulk supplies.”

Greencastle’s products and supplies are not limited to just soap. Lotion, lip balm, and herbal salves are also in stock. Classes to make these products are held regularly as well. The inventory of pure essential and fragrance oils continues to grow. Greencastle also carries various containers, tubes, tins, bottles and jars.

Greencastle’s all natural ingredients are eco-friendly and 100% biodegradable, safe to use in lakes and streams. They’re also safe for pets, something important to an animal lover like Tammy.

Of course, a full calendar of classes continue to be regularly offered.

On October 7th, a huge crowd came out to celebrate Sandy’s retirement at the fall annual open house and storewide sale. A line of almost 50 people out the door is surely an omen of success to come for Tammy.

Her next Goat Milk Soap Making class is October 19 and 20, 6-8 pm.
Other upcoming classes include:
The Art of Soap Making
November 1st & 2nd, 6-8 pm
Weekend Color Class!
November 11 & 12, 6-8 pm
Making Goat Milk Soap
November 16 & 17th, 6-8 pm

For more information and a glimpse of soaps with names so compelling you can almost smell them (Huckleberry, Lemongrass, Grapefruit Mango) visit www.greencastlesoap.com

Better yet, visit Greencastle and congratulate Tammy in person!

Located at 203 N Stone, Spokane, WA, 99202, just off Sprague & Altamont in the Historic Sprague Union District. Open to the public, Tuesday through Friday, 10 am to 5 pm, Saturday, 10 am to 3 pm.

 

 

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