Saipua Soap, Deep in the Heart of Little Finland

Saipua means “soap” in Finnish. You are forgiven for not knowing there’s a little Finnish-speaking pocket in Brooklyn—Red Hook, actually—and to be even more precise, inside the storefront of Saipua. When I ask Sarah Ryhanen, one of the owners of the soap-and-flower shop, what year Saipua had opened she replies, “We opened Saipua in 2005 or 2006—I can never remember. Eric [Famisan] and I took my mother’s olive oil soap business and upgraded it with flowers. I had no knowledge of the flower industry, I just bought flowers and fixed them up together.”

The off-handedness belies the beauty and precision of the exquisite bouquets that are composed at Saipua. The soaps Saipua produces are similarly lovely and invested with considerable care, with scent combinations that include coffee and mint with sweet almond oil and lavender oatmeal. And yet within all the order that must surround such carefully calibrated floral designs resides a certain element of restlessness and a carefree attitude. Ryhanen tells me that she knew Red Hook was the right place for the shop because “that’s where we could find a one-bedroom for our budget [of] $1,200. After seeing the place we stopped into a bar and they let us smoke inside. We thought ‘Wow, it’s lawless out here!’ That sealed the deal.”

While Red Hook still houses the Saipua headquarters (which survived the storm), Ryhanen tells us, “We bought a farm upstate to start growing our own flowers. There’s a lot of cache to say you’re from Brooklyn. I get it. I have a love-hate relationship with the borough. Can I say that in your magazine?”

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