Friday, February 6, 2015

The Mystery of Safonique

Last month I picked up a new brand of laundry detergent at the Giant. The packaging was a little unusual, a squishy plastic bag with a little tiny nozzle. "Lavender Sea," it said on the bag, together with the usual claims of sustainability and hypo-allergenic qualities, good for babies and old folks alike. Safonique. Sustainability appeals to my earth hippie tendencies. I adore lavender, although in my experience the laundry detergents that say they smell like lavender don't, really. Furthermore I'm allergic to lots of things, some of them found in your average detergent, so hypo-allergenic works for me. Safonique. I thought I'd give it a try.

When I got the little nozzle open, back home in the laundry room, the smell of real lavender just about knocked me over. This was the greatest stuff. It cleaned the clothes brilliantly. Since the clean clothes didn't make me itch I'm sure it's hypoallergenic. (I'll take their word for sustainability.) Only one problem. When I went back to the Giant for some more it was nowhere to be found.

Okay, I told myself, I'll find it online. Amazon has everything. Well, they used to have it. Many rave reviews. The only negative reviews for the stuff were from people who couldn't get it. One lady complained that she was told she would have to wait four weeks for it, so she left in a huff. Hey, if I thought I could get some in four weeks I would be perfectly happy. But, no. It's no longer available on Amazon.

Or anywhere else.

A search of the Internet turned up an interview on, an online magazine along the lines of Essence or Ebony, with the head of the company, Patricia Boswell. Ms. Boswell developed Safonique in the nineties, using straight lavender oil, unlike her competitors who dilute it somehow. With a good education and experience in manufacturing she was able to get Safonique up and running, placing it on the shelves of Walmart at first, and then in more and more stores, in spite of the fiercely competitive nature of laundry detergent sales. Safonique looked like taking off.

But that was years ago.

Alas! I seem to have bought the last bottle. What happened?

Since I came late to the party as usual, I have to make it up. I am a fiction writer, after all, with a Poetic License. So, here goes: Five ways a successful little company might disappear:

One. I used to work in software, and I got a pretty good feel for the sort of stuff that went on. Word would get around that a little company in somebody's garage was making a truly great software product. Convulsed with terror and jealousy, rather like the queen in Snow White, the big software company would come and buy them out. Then they would withdraw support from the little company's customers and ultimately declare the little company's product dead.

So this might have happened. It could be that Patricia Boswell is relaxing in the Islands on the proceeds of her formula, and if that's the case I wish her the best, but I feel sorry for myself and the rest of us who really liked her detergent and can no longer obtain it.

Two. Her business model might have been defective in some way. She wanted to sell this elegant elixir in Walmart, for example, whose customers are not known for the refinement of their taste. Maybe she should have been pitching the stuff to aging hippies like me, people who would kill for a snootful of lavender. I bought my first bottle of Caldrea Room Freshener in the museum shop at Winterthur, for example, a hangout for effete old hens. Or maybe the supply of lavender oil dried up, or the price went out of sight, and she was unable to meet the demand and so was forced to fold.

Three. Her factory was said to have been in Georgia, where she had maybe five employees. Maybe the Klan, enraged that a Black woman could be so successful, went out in their robes one night and burned it down. (That could have actually happened a hundred years ago. We hope it wouldn't happen in the twenty-first century.)

Four. The five employees, all young men, saw their beards fall out and their breasts begin to grow due to the pharmacological effects of pure lavender oil, which is known to be feminizing. They filed a class action suit against the company and put it out of business.

Five. The other detergent manufacturers, unable to force Ms. Boswell to sell out to any of them, hired some mob guys from Jersey City to make her an offer she couldn't refuse. "Nice little factory you have here. Be a shame if something happened to it." Then the horse's head in her bed. You know the drill.

Anyway, Patricia Boswell, if you're reading this, whatever happened, if by some chance you should want to start again in New Jersey, there's an empty factory about three hundred yards from my house here in Lambertville with a loading dock and everything. It used to be a small brewery not long ago. My guess is that the city would offer you tax breaks. You would be so welcome here. I'm thinking how nice it would be to wake up every morning to the smell of lavender.

© 2015 Kate Gallison


  1. Did this product start having problems around the time some people were calling French fries "Freedom Fries?" The name sounds, well, you know, foreign.Maybe if she called it "American Lavender."

  2. I love anything lavender... Good luck with your search! tjs

  3. I think we have a mystery novel here. Gifted writer goes in search of lavender lady who disappeared with valuable formula. Who would have wanted lavender lady out of the way?