POWERHOME Solar’s primary market is selling solar systems to residential customers throughout our eight-state footprint. However, one area that continues to grow is our commercial division, which formally opened in January in Michigan.
The chance to help businesses own their power is just as exciting for us, and one of our first customers in that space was Brent and Beth Engelhardt, the owners of Old Town Soap Co. in China Grove, North Carolina. In business in this small community 35 miles northeast of Charlotte for four years, the Engelhardts moved into their current South Main Street location last October, after outgrowing their prior property across the street.
Their new building is an old hardware store that needed top-to-bottom renovations. At the top, the Engelhardts saw the financial opportunity that going solar presented for their growing business. Pairing a new roof with 67 solar panels – completely blanketing the surface with renewable energy — made financial sense to them, especially when factoring in the 30 percent federal tax credit that’s available to offset the cost of the job.
The results already speak for themselves. The Engelhardts’ power bill for the last four months has been $24 – the price for the utility’s hookup fee. So the family that’s into scents already is seeing how much solar makes sense for them.
“Commercial rates are only going up,” Brent says. “Rates are never going to go back down. But once this system is paid for in say, 6-7 years, that’s my projection, I’ll be far ahead of the curve as far as the electrical goes and I’ll still have a realistic usable life of these products for another 20-plus years, with the roof and solar included. So it’s not really hard math.”
Brent, a licensed HVAC contractor and soon-to-be general contractor, is readying a portion of the upstairs of this two-story building to accommodate business clients who currently work out of their homes but seek an actual office setting to take their small businesses to the next level. The price of electricity, internet and rent will be baked into one price, and the added benefit for any tenant is the potential for the smells of brilliantly blended soap to waft up.
Building Old Town Soap Co., and what’s ahead
Brent’s wife Beth, drives and operates the business with her soapmaking ability, honed while working years at Sears. Instead of gifting her associates with store-made items during the holidays, Beth wanted to add a personal touch, and discovered soapmaking. While the couple’s first attempts in 2010 admittedly weren’t great, it’s clear how much Beth has perfected the craft. Moving into this old hardware store, with a first floor that is four times the size of their old building, gave Beth all the room she needs to run her business comfortably under one roof. Have a look inside the store in this video:
Brent marvels at the enterprise Beth has built, and how she’s developed a loyal customer base.
“Looking back at those vs. what she makes now, people are fascinated with what she can make, the artwork involved in it, the consistency that she can do,” Brent says. “Back then, it was atrocious. I mean, mine was awful. We have not let me make soap again. She makes the soap, and it’s beautiful.”
Interestingly, the store’s best seller is a soap with a scent called The Perfect Man, with Brent saying, “Women want their husbands to smell like it, men want to smell like it, everybody likes it.”
Like many small businesses, the holiday season is a big one for Old Town Soap Co. About 40 percent of their sales come in the final two months of the year. A new online store figures to add to their total even more. POWERHOME Solar is proud to help the Engelhardts reduce their energy bills and set themselves up to save thousands of dollars over the lifespan of their system. And who knows, maybe the store will come to outgrow even this space. One thing for certain, though, is that the Engelhardts love being in China Grove.
“We’ve come to the community, they’ve embraced us, we’ve enjoyed it and we’re here for the long haul.”
And so will their solar panels.