MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Last year, Deanna Taylor-Heacock began a mission to cut back on waste in her Maplewood home. In an attempt to eliminate buying plastic shampoo bottles, laundry detergent containers, paper towels and other single-use recyclables, she began looking for a refill shop — a place to bring her own containers and just buy the product. There wasn’t one anywhere in the area, so she started her own. Nine months later, the Good Bottle Refill Shop earned Taylor-Heacock the title of “Mompreneur of the Year” from New Jersey Family magazine. Taylor-Heacock also managed to accomplish her original goal.
“We were throwing so much away, and recycling is not the answer,” Taylor-Heacock said in a phone interview with the News-Record on June 1. “But I still had to buy shampoo and soap. That plastic bottle will last forever if it doesn’t get recycled. There was no reason to throw that laundry detergent bottle away. I could have the same one for the rest of my life.”
At the Good Bottle Refill Shop in Maplewood, customers can buy a glass container or bring their own, and then buy the product they need when it runs out. Taylor-Heacock knows this method works, because it worked for her.
“For a year I tracked everything I bought,” she said. “The list was long. There were 68 items that I had to get when they ran out at either Walmart or Target. I whittled it down, whether it was eliminating it completely or only replacing occasionally.”
There are still seven or eight items on that list that aren’t refillable: garbage bags and aluminum foil are items for which Taylor-Heacock hasn’t found more environmentally friendly options. But the 60 things that are now not on her shopping list anymore also cut her bills down.
“I’m not the first one to think of this,” Taylor-Heacock said, mentioning similar businesses in California, Minneapolis, Denver and St. Louis. “They’re popping up. But they’re few and far between.”
She’s had customers come from as far as Queens just to refill their bottles. But there’s been a ton of local support, too.
“Especially on Springfield Avenue, we were embraced by the business community,” Taylor-Heacock said. “People love saying where they came from. I’ve had people come from the city, and that was fun. But our core is local.”
Six months after the doors to the Good Bottle Refill Shop opened, they had to close again because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because she sells soap and other essentials, Taylor-Heacock is technically allowed to open her business. But because the shop is located in the Maplewood General Store, a cooperative business space on Springfield Avenue, she decided it wouldn’t be a good idea to be around that many people. At least for the time being, Good Bottle is a delivery service.
“People leave their bottle out and I’ll replace them with new ones, then wash those out and use them again,” Taylor-Heacock, who has worked as a buyer for Bloomingdale’s, said. “I think my retail background gave me the ability to roll with it. How can we keep the sales? I have one employee and I want to keep her on. I flexed the retail muscles.”
When some semblance of normalcy is able to be had again, Taylor-Heacock wants to expand.
“We haven’t been open a year yet,” she said. “But I definitely want to grow.”