Route One Pumpkins in Half Moon Bay
Treat yourself to organic pumpkin soaps and skin care all year long
by Heidi Trilling
October 2013 —
What do you think of when you think of pumpkins? Halloween jack-o’-lanterns, pumpkin pies and roasted pumpkin seeds, right?
Sandy Klein thinks of soaps.
Luxuriant soaps that smell like gourmet delicacies and leave your skin nourished and glowing. With names like Decadent Pumpkin Pie, Pink Grapefruit and Fennel, and Coastal Beeswax and Honey, each bar could be on a dessert plate, topped with whipped cream.
“I make the soaps here in the kitchen,” Klein says, stirring a pot of pumpkin pulp and essential oils on the stove. “Almost all of the ingredients — besides being organic and sustainable — are edible in one form or another. … It’s food for your skin.”
Klein is the founder and CEO of Route One Pumpkins, an artisanal skin care company in Half Moon Bay. Since the spring of 2012, Klein has been creating her line of handcrafted soaps, sugar scrubs, luscious body butters and rich body lotions.
Proceeds from the company support a variety of causes, including maritime conservation, women’s health and the Coastside senior community.
“Giving back to the community is an automatic thing for me to do,” Klein says. “I’m very grateful to be living here on the coast … to know each one of my local vendors, to be involved with the senior center and other local organizations. … It feels good to connect and help others while I grow this business.”
And Klein is growing this business the eco-friendly way.
Dedicated to locally sourced organic ingredients, recycled packaging and cruelty-free testing, as well as solar-powered and zero-waste production, Route One Pumpkins is a model of sustainability.
“I grew up on the Mendocino coast,” says Klein, pouring liquid pumpkin soap into a rectangular soap mold. “My mom would take us up and down the beach after storms, picking up the plastics. It’s just how I was raised: to be concerned about trash and waste. … Being respectful of the environment is important to me.”
Pumpkins are important to Klein, too.
“When I was commuting down the coast to Santa Cruz for work, I would see all the pumpkins and think: There’s got to be another use for these pumpkins in Half Moon Bay — something other than decorative or culinary. Something that could be used all year round.”
So, Klein managed to combine her professional experience in skin care and the ecological values instilled in her from childhood with Half Moon Bay’s most famous crop.
“Pumpkins are not just for Halloween any more,” Klein says, placing a Cinderella pumpkin — a whimsical French heirloom variety — on her countertop. “I think people are beginning to learn more about seeds and oils and how effective natural ingredients are. And pumpkin seeds are soooo healthy!”
According to studies cited in The New York Times and the National Institutes of Health, among other sources, pumpkin seeds offer a wide variety of health benefits. They contain essential fatty acids that support cell, brain, and nervous system functions; they enhance heart health, act as anti-inflammatory agents, aid in stabilizing blood sugar levels and help regulate sleep. They also rejuvenate the condition and appearance of skin.
“Pumpkin seeds are the best kept secret in town!” Klein says. She is sharing this secret through her products, via the alchemy of soap making.
Or, as Klein explains it: “Soap making is a mixture of science and math and art. Each oil has its own saponification value, which affects the amount of lye you need. That’s the math and science part. Then there’s the art: the colors and textures and combinations of essential oils.”
Richard J. Holtz, of Tunitas Creek Family Farm, agrees. Holtz supplies Klein with the certified organic Cinderella and Sugar Pie pumpkins that form the bases of her soaps.
“Farming’s a mixture of science and art, too,” Holtz says. “And luck! I really have to credit Sandy for bringing information about the health benefits of pumpkins to our attention. She’s right in line with our organic practices. Utilizing the whole fruit: the pulp, the seeds and the seed oil … staying local, valuing the environment and its produce. Wonderful.”
Cat Fraley of Coastal Bee provides beeswax and honey for Klein’s soaps. “Local honey is going to be a lot more flavorful and aromatic,” Fraley says. “My bees are foraging in coastal shrub pollens and nectars. … And Sandy uses double the percentage of these ingredients than soap-makers usually use. That’s why you really get the feeling of the beeswax in her soap, and the silkiness of the honey, and the warm, caramel scent of it. That’s the magic of fresh, local ingredients.”
“The beeswax smells amazing,” Klein says. “It just makes me happy.”
Customers Moira Kelly and Jeff Peters say it makes them happy, too.
“We’re bath nerds,” Kelly says, laughing. “We’ve tried every one of these soaps and love them all.” Peters adds: “I’ve even tasted the pumpkin pie soap! But washing with it is better, of course.”
So, what’s next for Route One Pumpkins?
New soap products are coming soon.
“And maybe hydrosols. I’ve also had a lot of requests for classes,” Klein says. “It’s always fun to pass on skills. I thought it would be good for high school students, since soap making is a perfect application of math and chemistry.”
Klein adds: “Travel may be coming up in the future, too. I know a lot of soap- makers who go to the third world and show women how to make soap with local ingredients they have access to,” Klein says. “It’s really important for microbusiness as well as for hygiene. That would be something I’d really like to do.”
In the meantime, Klein is getting ready for the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival on Oct. 19-20 and the Green Festival in San Francisco Nov. 9-10. She also has a booth at farmers markets in Half Moon Bay, Pacifica and other Bay Area venues. Check the Route One Pumpkins website for Klein’s calendar.
Also check Klein’s blog for recipes as diverse as pumpkin shrimp curry, pumpkin latte cupcakes, pumpkin vodka — and pumpkin-flavored treats for dogs.
“See? Pumpkins are not just for Halloween any more,” Klein says. “They can help you — and your pets — be healthy and happy and nourished all year long.”