Avast!

I find it more than a little bittersweet that I launched a scent inspired by my love of reading just as the sun began to set on one of the giants of retail books. For those of you who missed the press releases, Borders will be closing its remaining stores by the end of the month. I am not ashamed to say that I had a bit of a cry about it when the final decision was made public.

I started working at Borders in 1996, as a part-time barista, just for a little extra money each week. It quickly became clear that I had joined a family of intelligent, interesting, & quite often insane people from all walks of life who, if nothing else, shared a deep & abiding passion for the written word. I was with the company for 6 years, during which I met my now-husband, left the restaurant industry, moved halfway across the country, & went back to culinary school, all life-altering events that would not have happened without Borders. We have collected a motley tribe of amazing friends over the years, friends who are feeling the road fall away from under their feet as Borders shutters its stores. These are people who devoted years of their lives to a company that was, once upon a time, founded on the belief that books, & the people who read them, matter.

***

Avast! began simply, a fun one-off pirate-themed blend that I whipped together for a gift exchange that several of my regular customers were participating in. Asked if it could be properly released, I did some refining & settled upon a cool coconut milk scent, cut with green spices & grounded by musk & coffee. As a rule, I’m not much for coconut scents, but Avast! dodges the realm of suntan lotion , somehow managing to be both cool & warm, sweet & clean.

I’d started a description for it, the tale of a girl who’d stowed away on a pirate ship & tried to pass as a boy, only to be discovered two days out of port when all hands stripped to the waist to holystone the deck. But I kept getting stuck on the details, & it started to feel forced, trite, & altogether ridiculous.

Later that week, a neighbor stopped by with a stack of old books for us. One of them was a wonderful old burgundy hardcover of adventure tales, embossed with a ship in full sail. (Yep, that’s it in the product photos…) Our 5-year-old son opened it & was sucked in by the illustrations, woodcuts of treasure chests & Jolly Rogers & all manner of things to make a boy’s imagination take flight. Watching his face, I realized that Avast!’s story wasn’t the high-seas adventure itself, but the telling of the tale, the headlong dive into a vivid, utterly enthralling world brought into being simply by ink printed onto a page.

And so, Avast! came to life, a reminder of those idle summers spent engrossed in a book, when a whole afternoon could pass unnoticed as long as there was another chapter to read, when the world around vanished, when we laughed & shouted & wept in sympathy with characters who seemed to know us better than we knew ourselves.

***

If you, too, find joy & solace in your local bookstore, be it a big box or a tiny independent, please take a moment to stop in. Browse the shelves, pick up an old favorite, talk to your booksellers & find something new. There will come a time when being able to go to a shop, page through a book & talk to someone knowledgeable about it will be an uncommon luxury. Please. Make the most of it. Support your local bookstore.

Avast! will be live through August 31st

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About Hayley

I'm a trained pastry chef, DIY queen & mother with my heart in west England, my soul in Chicago, & my feet in south-central PA. Paintbox Soapworks was born out of my love for handicraft, beautiful fragrances & clean hands. I play around with colors & scents & soothe my insomnia by dreaming up new ideas. I pull heavily from music (Waits, White Stripes, Wilco), books (Tolkien, the avalanche of children's books in C's room) & my own fertile imagination.
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2 Responses to Avast!

  1. Michael Agan says:

    So sad. We had a Borders store 3 blocks from us that only opened a couple years ago, in an old funeral home (only in New Orleans!) that didn’t survive the first round of store closings. I miss being able to walk over and just sit and flip through books for hours on end.

  2. sultaana says:

    This was a wonderful story, thanks for sharing! Makes me sad I didn’t nab a bar with my most recent order. I am a sucker for a scent with a story.

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