More Than Just Cheese

Spotlight Newspapers - 02/12/10
Alyssa Jung

The Mayes family are big fans of goat milk, but not necessarily to eat or cook with—they wash and moisturize with it. The family lives on a farm in Mechanicville where they have been making goat milk soap and lotion in their basement for 10 years. What started as a small family business has grown to become a much larger enterprise, still family-run, that now services 50 states and 30 countries.

Maryclaire Mayes homeschooled her children and made soap out of goat milk for a science experiment. When the family started using it, Mayes said it was wonderful and she kept making it for home use and to give away as gifts. At her husband’s urging, Mayes researched how to become a small business and things took off.

“Because I was homeschooling my kids I was always putting the brakes on things. I didn’t want to be big. Then they went away to school and we’ve been growing steadily ever since,” said Mayes. “I made the soap myself up until two years ago when my son came home from college and took over; I made 85 bars a batch but he invented a system that mechanically helps lift the heavy pots and can make batches of 320.”

Mayes said besides being a unique product locally, nationally and globally, she thinks what really makes the company, Alabu Inc., stand out is that it uses 100 percent goat milk.

“Other companies do make it but very few do it with fresh milk; many use powdered milk and reconstitute it. Usually, soap needs a water to dissolve the chemical that’s the catalyst for turning oils into soap and keeps it from burning,” said Mayes. “We’ve developed a method where we use no water which allows for our products to be extra creamy and moisturizing. We don’t add any alcohol or preservatives.”

Matt Turgeon, Mayes’ son-in-law and the company’s chief operating officer, said Alabu Inc. sells about 2,500 to 3,000 products a month. The majority is soap but he said a growing trend is the lotion stick, which people seem to have latched onto for its solid versus liquid consistency.

Turgeon said most of the business comes through the company’s Web site but the products are in nine local stores. For the 10th anniversary, Alabu Inc. is offering 25 percent off store bought items and various sales online.

While Alabu Inc. has been enjoying world success, Turgeon said offering products in local retail stores like Green Grocer in Clifton Park, Wild Times in Ballston Spa, Basic Foods in Scotia, the Food Co-op in Albany and more, will always be a top priority.

“We know what it’s like to be a small business and how challenging it can be and how exciting it is when things start to be successful and move forward,” said Turgeon. “We want to be able to play an active role with different mom and pop stores that carry our product; help them be successful.”

To ensure the business continues to grow and be exciting, Turgeon said it’s using the 10-year milestone as a chance to change.

“Up to this point we’ve emphasized the goat milk part of our products but we’re actually “Up to this point we’ve emphasized the goat milk part of our products but we’re actually broadening a bit to offer more all natural products. We’ll still focus on goat milk but our plan is to release a number of new products over the next year that won’t necessarily use goat milk but will still fit in the all natural arena,” said Turgeon. “People really like our product because it gives you a lot of vitamins and nutrients you don’t find in commercial or glycerin soaps. The fact that it’s handmade all the way through is appealing to a lot of people and many say it’s so moisturizing they don’t even have to put on lotion after they shower.”

A full list of products, pricing and sales is on the Web site,