The "Labor of Love"
It all began over a decade ago, in a small country kitchen, in Parsons, West Virginia. Founders, Alby and Donna Cunningham had received news that a granddaughter had been born with the skin condition Eczema. Donna, desperate to assist, immediately began researching the benefits of gentle, natural products that help the skin, such as goatsmilk, emu oil, and shea butter. She started from scratch and experimented with the making of natural goatsmilk soaps using the ancient cold-process method. Donna's husband Alby, a retired welder and minister, assisted her greatly with his creativeness in constructing handmade molds and cutting devices.
Donna spared no expense on quality and after much trial and error, she felt confident with the final result. Her soaps were wonderfully gentle, natural and creamy, and were helping her granddaughter’s condition. The Cunninghams then decided to give the soaps to other family members and friends as an expression of their love.
It wasn’t long after sharing the soaps with others that Alby and Donna realized they were onto something very big. People who tried the soaps were hooked - they loved them and kept asking for more! Word of mouth carried the news of the soaps and demand for them grew rapidly. Although this had started as a “labor of love” and a gift giving gesture, expenses were mounting rapidly. They soon realized that in order to continue making the soaps, they would have to start charging a fee for the products. Thus, The Appalachian Milk Soap Company, was born.
Donna continued to perfect her recipes over the years, most of which are 100% all-natural, and Appalachian Milk Soap was one of several West Virginia handcrafted soap companies featured in the December 2006 issue of Wonderful West Virginia Magazine. The products can be found in a variety of specialty shops and resorts in West Virginia and western Maryland. They’ve been sold at the Mountain Made Artisan Gallery, Canaan Valley Resort and at Tamarack “The Best of West Virginia“, a one-stop-shop for West Virginia culture, heritage, handcrafts, fine art, regional cuisine and music. Tamarack employs a rigorous jury process to ensure product quality and authenticity. Appalachian Milk Soap has been juried at Tamarack since 2004.
The "Passing of The Torch"
After years of soapmaking and traveling to hundreds of shows and festivals promoting and selling their products, Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham desired to retire and enjoy the later years of their life. In 2007, the Cunninghams approached a family friend, and fellow West Virginia businesswomen, Susan M. Jack, with the idea of taking over the company and propelling it to the next level. Susan had never used the soap before, so the Cunninghams sent her home with much to think about and several bars of soap for her to try.
Susan admits that she didn’t think much of the proposal at first but quickly changed her mind the day she fished the soap out of her suitcase and used it for herself. Yes, another one - hooked! The simple experience of using the soap for herself was motive enough, and it inspired her to make a move on the opportunity presented to her.
The rest is history. Armed with Donna Cunningham’s winning recipes, Ms. Jack restructured the company, moved it to Hamlin, West Virginia, and currently serves as President. She enlisted the services of a partner, talented new Vice President, Linda Smith-Meadows, and the Cunninghams remain partial owners of the new organization as well. The passing of the torch from one generation of West Virginian artisan to the next is now complete.
AMS products and the recipes used to make them have not changed - they are still, true, handcrafted, handmade soaps, manufactured totally from scratch. While we now have the ability to provide these wonderful products to a broader market, we continue with the tradition and commitment of producing only the finest handcrafted soap products available. We remain faithful to the original model and the integrity and quality of those time tested, proven winners. And as always, we pour a “labor of love” and “pride” into every single batch of soap we make.
Go to About Our Soaps for specific information related to the products themselves; the different types of products we produce, the process in which they are made, and the positive benefits of the ingredients used in the making of them.