By JOHN T. WARD
When her older sister died from a rare form of leukemia three years ago, Barb Randall found some solace in an aroma, and the memories it inspired.
Donna Randall, who worked in the fragrance industry, had created a simple lavender spray for her own use that she applied to linens.
“Whenever she had overnight guests at her Jersey City brownstone, she would spray it on the pillows,” Barb recalled in an interview at her Red Bank home this week. “And when I stayed there, the last thing she would always say to me was, ‘sweet dreams.'”
The sisters had grown up in Middletown, and after raising her own two children in Vermont, Barb moved to Red Bank to be closer to her parents following Donna’s death, she said.
One day earlier this year, Randall decided to “whip up a batch” of the linen spray in her kitchen, using her late sister’s formula, which called for 100-percent lavender essential oil, which she pressed herself from lavender growing in her backyard.
Before long, the massage therapist found herself pursuing the idea of selling the spray. She designed an antique-looking label, and ordered up some small spray bottles of frosted glass. The result was a product she called Ma Belle Soeur Sweet Dreams Lavender Linen Spray — using the French for “my beautiful sister.”
“It was about turning a very negative into a positive,” she told redbankgreen.
Randall said she’s got a sensitive nose: “I can walk into someone’s kitchen, smell what’s cooking and tell you exactly what’s in the sauce.” She’s also, she said, a “metaphysical” person who is influenced by dreams, one of which led her to the newly opened Welcome Home housewares and gifts shop on East Front Street in Red Bank. After meeting with owner Kathy Conlon, she walked out with an order. Ma Belle Soeur is now sold there for $29.50 per bottle.
Ma Belle Sooeur has also found a spot on the shelves of six other area stores, including Sickels Market in Little Silver and the Barefoot Bride boutique in Red Bank, Randall said.
Word about the product has spread via a Facebook page, with a growing audience of followers that reaches to Indonesia, said Randall, who’s gotten orders from upstate New York and California.
Randall is hoping to nurture the venture into a larger business, and is already working on the next two products: a body butter and a candle, both lavender-based. She’s also got two more fragrances “in my head,” she said.
But “it’s not about the money,” she added, and plans to donate some of the proceeds to her late sister’s favorite charity: a feline spay/neuter program in her last hometown of Jersey City.