A craft soap maker will be moving its headquarters and production facility from Menands to Freemans Bridge Road later this year.
RAD Soap Co. announced the move Wednesday and said the new space — formerly home to the Pet Lodge and Checkerhills Farm store — will be more in line with its needs, and closer to the operation that packs and ships the goods it sells online.
The building is currently stripped down to the studs but the rebuild is expected to be complete by late 2021.
RAD has its flagship store in Stuyvesant Plaza in Guilderland. Its products are also on the shelves at Whole Foods Market, Honest Weight Co-op and Healthy Living Market and Cafe.
“We’re really growing with Whole Foods and our internet has exploded,” owner, founder and CEO Susan Kerber said Wednesday.
RAD’s online sales grew in 2020 but she had difficulty because of the pandemic and subsequent labor shortage hiring people for order fulfillment. Around Christmastime she turned to Pine Ridge Industries, which is operated by the Schenectady ARC and employs individuals with developmental disabilities to perform light commercial work.
Pine Ridge is right off Route 50, barely a mile away from RAD’s soon-to-be new home.
“I wanted to get closer to them,” Kerber said.
The issue is both practical and emotional for Kerber — her grown daughter has Down Syndrome.
By increasing her work with Pine Ridge, she said, “I could give back where my heart was.”
RAD will be vacating a 15,000-square-foot space in Menands in favor of 3,300 square feet with an option on 2,000 more square feet in Glenville. She doesn’t need anywhere near 15,000 now but projects enough growth that she’ll need 5,200 in about three years.
Current production runs are 400 bars of soap in a batch, 12 batches a week.
RAD was founded in 2009. It grew from Kerber experimenting in her kitchen but could trace its roots back more than a half-century, when she would help her father, Ted Grey, make the fresh kielbasa he’d sell out of his shop in Schenectady’s Mont Pleasant neighborhood.
“So much came from my father Grey’s Food Market on Davis Terrace,” she said.
In his life, and at his wake, she saw the resulting depth of his connection to his community.
That model of making and selling something locally within her own community still appeals to Kerber now.
FREEMANS BRIDGE ROAD
The arrival of RAD will be one more piece of the facelift the town is trying to engineer on Freemans Bridge Road.
All of Glenville is within the service area of the Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority, and Metroplex is providing a $95,000 grant toward the estimated $1 million makeover of 53 Freemans Bridge Road.
It’s a key corridor of travel, Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen said, and along with Saratoga Road, a key retail zone for the county.
After decades in decline, Freemans Bridge Road had been fairly rundown in places.
The town has taken the lead in planning and executing the turnaround, he said.
“It’s a nice addition to the Freemans Bridge corridor,” Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said about RAD. “This is part of the overall vision we’ve been trying to work on. Freemans Bridge is starting to come together.”
The goal is an area that looks better, is pedestrian-friendly and has more retail destinations.
RAD Soap will be occupying the rear of 53 Freemans Bridge Road, which went vacant in 2020. Retail tenants will occupy the front.
Other changes in the works or on the way:
- A pedestrian walkway to run from the Mohawk River to Dutch Meadows Lane;
- A riverfront trail from Freemans Bridge to Schonowee Avenue;
- Pavement repairs at the railroad crossing;
- Removal of the old Van Curler greenhouses and smokestack, with placement of a solar array at the rear of the property and retail space at the front;
- Possible conversion of the former Goldstock’s, vacant three years, into a gun shop — the prospective owner is currently going through the federal permitting process.
A lot of changes will start to be visible in the next year or so, Koetzle said.
“We’ve been getting a lot of inquiries.”