by Michael White |
It’s become predictable, the reaction from people first entering O’Beehave Naturals in Babylon.
First they’ll say, “Oh my God, this place smells good!” explained the shop’s owner, Jeanine (Bean) Schappert.
Then they look around and ask, “What is this place?”
To answer quickly, it’s a refill bar.
Explaining what that means, exactly, takes a bit longer.
FIRST OF ITS KIND
O’Beehave Naturals is the only refill bar on Long Island, or anywhere. Schappert knows this to be true because she invented it.
During nearly two decades in the beauty industry, and as a groundbreaking salon owner in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, she’s witnessed first-hand the waste that hair, makeup and skin products produce — whether all-natural or not.
Her goal after leaving Brooklyn and opening Beehive Salon in Islip in 2010 was to develop her own line of plant-based products for her clients.
So she did just that.
“They got a cult following right away,” she said. “Because as soon as people use it, they notice an immediate difference. Their hair literally comes back to life. It restores the vibrancy, the shine, stimulates growth, brightness.”
As her product line grew, the next goal was to figure out distribution — but without the use of plastic bottles.
(And she has plans to distribute O’Beehave products widely.)
So she ran with the idea of using bottles and taps, not unlike the beer industry.
“There’s taps on everything … beer, wine, coffee. And I was like, why can’t I tap shampoo?” Schappert said. She’s since been working to perfect her pump systems, and has a patent pending on another approach that she isn’t yet using in the store.
O’Beehave Naturals in Babylon also carries natural household cleaners and detergents for refilling, as well as other products all meant to help people reduce their reliance on petroleum products in all forms.
This is all nothing new, Schappert is quick to say.
“This is the old way,” she said. “They still do this in places like Jamaica. The people who live on the island go to a big depot with a 55-gallon drum that they refill and reuse. It’s not new. It’s just something we got away from.”
But the “new way,” she says, the culture of single-use plastic water bottles and throwaways and a reliance on synthetics continues to wreak havoc on our environments.
And with that, our own bodies and overall health.
A LARGER MOVEMENT
The refill bar idea wasn’t born in a vacuum; it came as a direct result of Schappert’s participation in a wider, global movement that’s growing in popularity called Zero Waste.
Through the Zero Waste Movement, people try their best to ditch the use of plastic (as best they can), reduce the amount of products they send to landfills, and remove what they believe to be harmful chemicals from their home.
Tammie Mentzel, the owner of It’s Only Natural, a health store in Bellport Village, says Schappert has been a leader in the Zero Waste movement here on Long Island.
And people are starting to respond.
Mentzel began carrying O’Beehave products in her Bellport store this summer, around late July or August. Already three of the five jugs on display need refilling.
“It’s moving very quickly,” she said of the shampoos, conditioners and body washes.
“I hope this takes off for [Schappert],” Mentzel added. “She took a huge leap of faith leaving her salons for something she believes in. We try to explain that to some of the customers [interested in the O’Beehave products] and people really like knowing that someone is doing this for a reason.”
The customers who visit Babylon, Bellport or a handful of other locations for O’Beehave products do so with a refill jug in hand, and they fill up by the ounce.
Mentzel, whose rustic little shop is just a few miles from the Brookhaven Town Landfill, said she hopes to soon add more options for bulk shopping.
“People can get grossed out [over the landfill] or angry about it,” Mentzel said. “But we have to ask, what are we doing to reduce what we’re actually sending to that landfill? This is a step toward that line of thinking.”
Although Schappert is all about Zero Waste, she and others like her do realize — and they emphasize this — that there is a place for plastic when it’s used right.
“It’s durable; it doesn’t rust,” she said this week from her shop at 32 Deer Park Avenue in the village, gesturing to her plastic pump systems. “But I’ll be using these forever.”
Schappert was a cosmetology student at the Aveda Institute Minneapolis.
It was at school where she learned from her mentor, the company’s founder, Horst Rechelbacher, all about potential dangers of petroleum in cosmetics. The Aveda company, founded in 1978, helped launch the market for what are now described as natural, safe cosmetics.
Those were the only type of products Schappert used in her Beehive Salon in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which she opened with a friend in 2002 after the two worked together at a Rockabilly-themed salon in the same area.
“Beehive quickly got this following, because it was eco, and Williamsburg was so hot,” she recalled. “And it was just a motley crew of hairdressers from all over the world.”
The buzz at Beehive caught the attention of The New York Times, FoxNews and other media outlets. Their work in Brooklyn was also recognized with a Forbes Enterprising award for being a leader in eco-business.
But the partners split and Schappert later licensed out the Beehive in Brooklyn while making her way back to her hometown of Babylon in 2007 to be closer to family — and for her son to be able to fish and play in the grass.
Retaining the name rights, she later opened up Beehive Salon in Islip in 2010.
“This whole refill project concept was born in Islip,” she explained. “I worked with a chemist and we developed all-natural, plant-based products that are universal, meaning they’re for all humans — because all humans are made up of the same thing.”
“We started with my original formula of broccoli seed oil, which is a universal wash that’s good for the hair, face, beard and body,” she said.
A conditioner followed, and is still a best-seller (as is the broccoli seed oil shampoo). The conditioner is made of charcoal, seed- and plant-based moisturizers, as well as surfactants.
Do-it-yourselfers are also free to buy raw products at O’Beehave and make their own.
The end result is people not starting or ending their day by dousing themselves in chemicals — while at the same time eschewing the very helpful minerals that evolved alongside humans.
Schappert says dermatologists and general practitioners have also expressed interest in her medicinal offerings, which include what she described as ophthalmologist-approved eyedrops to grow lashes
Schappert laments that people have lost touch with their natural environments, which had helped sustain them, and heal them and fend off disease for centuries.
“Nature is alive. Nature is here to help us. Nature is here to heal us. Nature is here to support us and everything we’re doing right now is pissing it off,” Schappert says. “There’s a phrase that says walk softly upon the earth, and that’s for a reason. But people forget, that’s all.
“We just … forgot.”
Top: Jeanine (Bean) Schappert looks out at Deer Park Avenue from her O’Beehave Naturals store, which opened in Babylon Village on April 22, Earth Day. (Michael White)
Jeanine (Bean) Schappert has a loyal and growing group of friends, clients and customers called “The Refillers.” These people are working to reduce their use of plastics in multiple ways. Stay tuned as greaterlongisland.com offers you a peek into their lives.