Spanish Village in Carefree is busy, even midday on Wednesday. The area has ice cream shops, art studios and boutiques that are frequently visited. Families sit outside on benches in the sunshine eating lunch, their backs leaned up against a window that used to display products for Carefree Bath & Body.
Carefree Bath & Body had been paying rent for a 1,600-square-foot space before being told that every event it scheduled for the rest of the year would be canceled. Not unlike other small businesses, they did everything they could to stay afloat until they had no other options. The space is currently occupied by dust and drywall that fell from the ceiling. The unit is padlocked and looks nothing like it did a year ago.
Carefree Bath & Body is Trish Brotherton’s longtime dream. She started making scrubs in her kitchen in 2017 and took them to fairs and festivals.
“I set up my whole display and did demos on people’s hands,” said Brotherton, who lives in New River. “Once they try it, 80% of the time, they fall in love with it.”
It was a hobby that helped her earn extra money—until she appeared at the Maricopa County Home & Garden Show.
“I didn’t make a single sale the first day,” she said.
Brotherton didn’t do a single demo that day, but she met several great people.
“I met the other vendors. I met all the security guards for the home show. I met the people who ran the show, and I met my mentor there,” said Brotherton, who learned how to make soap, bath bombs, lotions and scrubs from her.
Brotherton put her own spin on the recipe and added them to her booth at events.
“I eventually ran out of space where I was making it but taking that leap from your kitchen table to paying rent on a commercial place is frightening,” she said.
After looking at properties with friends, she called Spanish Village and said the price tag wasn’t too scary. It was manageable.
At that time, she had weekend shows in every corner of Arizona. She hired an employee who split shows with Brotherton. Her business was doing so well that she felt comfortable signing the lease that started in January 2020.
“It took us a while to get in, sand the floor, redecorate and all of that. I opened the retail area there in March 2020,” she said, pausing. “You can do the math.”
In March, the pandemic hit, and she added hand sanitizer to her product line. Unfortunately, Carefree Bath & Body was only open for two weeks. Nobody knew it was there.
Spanish Village’s owners were willing to work with the small business, but she could only afford to keep her space until November.
“For the next three months my business was in a storage unit behind a Home Depot,” she said.
Brotherton is selling her Carefree Bath & Body products online at carefreebody.com. Brotherton said she’s wearing all the hats to the company and some fit better than others. Online is a struggle for her and when her business picks back up, she wants to hire someone to help her navigate the online store.
“I feel like it’s safe to move forward with some things, though. I just haven’t figured out how yet. I’m doing the best I can with what I have, and it’ll get there.”
“I love talking to people. By doing this, I am able to teach classes and it gives me an outlet to be creative and teach other people.”
But there’s a happy ending to the story. Nearly three months after Brotherton packed up a U-Haul and left Spanish Village, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
Brotherton is preparing to sign a lease for a space near Bryan’s Black Mountain Barbecue on Cave Creek Road for Carefree Bath & Body. She plans to teach classes on the patio that comes with the space. She’ll go back to doing what she loves most: talking to people and making them happy.