Spring cleaning season is here, and there’s a new eco-friendly way to tackle it in Fort Wayne.
In the fall of 2022, Heather Eracleous opened a brick-and-mortar shop for her business, the Vessel Refillery FW, at 10376 Leo Rd., Ste G., in Leo Crossing. The concept is simple: Instead of buying pre-packaged, single-use plastic containers of soap, laundry detergent and other household or body products, BYO refillable containers to this local shop, and pump them full of eco-friendly, non-toxic products available in bulk.
Eracleous sources and stocks small batch body and home cleaners that you won’t find anywhere else in Fort Wayne. She also runs a small resale book program at her shop for any fun reads you’re looking to recycle, and she supports other local artists and makers by displaying their work and partnering with them for pop ups, from baked goods to vintage fashions.
We sat down with Eracleous to learn more about the Vessel Refillery FW and get tips for your first visit.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. How long have you lived in Fort Wayne, and what have you done previously?
HE: I am a born and raised Fort Wayner. I went away for college (Xavier University in Cincinnati) and worked for the Sydney Olympics in Sydney, Australia, as well as the Chicago White Sox in Chicago, but I always came back home. Now, my roots are firmly planted here with my family.
I previously worked in sports marketing for more than 12 years. Then I obtained my Masters Degree and worked in event management for more than 15 years. When my father developed Alzheimer's disease, he became my priority, and after his passing, I had planned what I felt would be the best celebration of life for him. The funeral home contacted me a few weeks later asking me to come to work for them. I became the Community Engagement Manager of Northeast Indiana and stayed in the death-care industry for 6 years. Seeking a change, I prayed about a new beginning and what that would look like for quite a while.
When did you start the Vessel Refillery, and what inspired you to do it?
HE: I was laying on the couch and had been praying for a sign about what I should be doing. I opened up TikTok and watched my first video about a refillery and instantly felt drawn to the concept. I went down the TikTok rabbit hole and watched several videos about refilleries. By morning I had written a business plan and had begun researching small batch makers.
For those who aren’t familiar with refilleries, how would you describe them?
HE: A refillery is a shop where you are able to take those single-use plastics or glasses from home that you had shampoo, Dawn dish soap or jelly in previously, clean them out and bring them in to refill them with the products we carry, such as organic shampoo, organic hand soap, plant-based laundry detergent and multipurpose cleaner — just to name a few.
If you don't have a vessel to bring in, we have free ones available here that have been donated and sanitized, or nice glass ones available for purchase. We carry so many products for your home and body, so it really is best to come into the refillery to see everything.
How has your business grown and evolved since you launched?
HE: We started by having booth space at several spring, summer and fall markets and quickly realized there was a real need for a brick-and-mortar, as so many customers quickly became repeat visitors who fell in love with the concept and our products. Last fall, we opened our brick and mortar in Leo Crossing on the corner of Dupont and Tonkel Roads and have been truly blessed and excited for how far we have come and where we are heading.
Tell us more about your shop and your hopes for the space.
HE: We have a bright and happy space filled to the brim with eco-friendly products. I would love to see us evolve into a larger shop, offering even more products.
On your website, you talk about the importance of being more environmentally conscious. How would you assess the current state of Fort Wayne’s environmental friendliness, and what could take our city/community to the next level?
HE: Truthfully we have been excited to see how many people are thinking about their footprint, using safer products and keeping those products in vessels that will not still be on our earth in 100 years. I certainly have seen that people are at different stages in their environmental awareness. Some are curious and intimidated on how to begin; some are practicing good habits, and others are all-in.
What are some of your favorite or top-selling products you’d recommend to guests?
HE: Our multipurpose cleaner, toilet bombs, plant-based laundry detergent and facial scrub are wonderful sellers in the refillery. Personally, I would recommend those, as well as our goats milk lotion, which is spectacular. Our dog poopie bags are compostable and biodegradable, which are great for those with four-legged family members. But I would absolutely recommend our natural deodorants, as they work wonderfully and smell great.
Any pro tips for people who visit your shop for the first time?
HE: It's always a great idea to bring in a few empty vessels, like ball canning jars or empty soap containers, but not necessary. Spend a few minutes acquainting yourself with all of the products and ask questions.
What’s next for your business in 2024?
HE: We are researching some new ways to reach our customers. We will continue listening to our customers to see what they are interested in and follow the lead of other, well established refilleries in other states.
Anything we didn’t ask that you’d like to share?
HE: We offer really great seasonal gifts that are eco-friendly. We also have a local artists' work displayed on our walls, and we switch the artist out every few months.
- Sunday-Monday: CLOSED
- Tuesday-Wednesday: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
- Thursday-Saturday: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.