Grosbeak Gardens is Flourishing in Reading VT

A new business is flourishing in Reading Vermont. Garden inspired scents are used to create a line of handmade soaps and candles right in our backyard. In 2012 Bill Bakker and Stephen D'Agostino decided to move out of New York and head east to Vermont. After looking at many properties they found one listed in Reading that met all their requirements: some land-not too big-something that was manageable; and a secluded, older house but not a fixer-uper. They saw a former ranch style house that has been expanded on it typical Vermont Farm house fashion on Jenne RD in Reading online and fell in love with it. They made the move in December 2014. They brought with them their love for making gifts and soon Grosbeak Gardens taking over their basement.

While in New York the two had been making candles for a couple years as Christmas gifts. Stephen started with a pure cucumber scented candle, "because its so hard to find straight up cucumber scented things" said Stephen, "it's always mixed with something like melon." "We've both always had a fascination with making your own things so (making candles) was a nice crafty thing (to do) then the soap was kind of born out of that. And because he (Bill) has a chemistry background from school he was perfect play around with the oils to get the right balance" Stephen explained.

The soaps and candles are garden inspired. They do not grow herbs in their gardens to be used in their products, the amount needed to make enough of the essential oils used in production would be a full time job alone and need more than their four acres of pasture land. They do plan to grow everything on their land that inspires them to add them into their products; fragrances like Rosemary, Lilac, Peaches, and Pears. Their gardens are being prepped for planting next year.

The two produce soaps and candles but their main focus is gift sets. Premièring this weekend is a maple gift set. The set will include maple scented soap and candle, with a 8oz bottle of their private label syrup made by a neighbor who even tapped two of their maple trees. The gift set also includes a Danforth Pewter ornament; Danforth makes a maple leaf and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The set is packaged up in metal galvanized bucket (like a small sap bucket.) The two are always on the look out to partner with local products to put these gift sets hoping to compliment their own products. These Maple Buckets gift sets are rolling out just in time for fall foliage and through the gift giving season. 

One gift set is that is very popular is the Gardeners Gift Set which include soap, candle, nail brush, and herb seeds (for planting in your garden) during the winter there are plans to switch out the herb seeds to include an amaryllis bulb or paper whites for bringing a little spring garden into people's homes during deep winter.

The couple has even more plans to expand their product lines. "The majority of people who buy our products are women; we're trying to focus on getting guys to buy our products or more what we think will happen is women to buy our products for husbands, boyfriends, whatever...we'll be launching a shaving bar soon.

"The bar will come in a new line of product using coco butter instead of shea butter. Using coco butter bar always Bill to switch up the scents to include Barbershop-a bay rum scented bar and Spicy-a peppery scented bar, and Woods-a balsam vanilla scent bar. "Bill put a lot of time into developing these scents for both people to enjoy" says Stephen.

"Having the garden inspired line has been really great and we have a lot of fragrances there but it's been really fun to develop a new line with coco butter. For me I do all the research and development in the soap manufacturing so I was really able to think about combinations of fragrances, it was just a completely different project from the garden inspired line" says Bill.

The shea butter line didn't happen overnight. Bill explains "I spent nine months working on different soap formulas and testing (them.) You have to get your balance right for your ingredients and how much time mixing it, if you don't mix (for) enough time it doesn't solidify, too much time it's rock hard. There is a certain sweet spot."

The two are slowly building a presence in stores in the area. They do have an online store through Esty at But as Stephen explains "it's better to have your own website" so he's is in the process of designing their site that will launch soon. Next year, the two plan to focus on Farmers Markets from Memorial Day through Labor Day (they have been at the Woodstock Farmers Market for the past few weeks.) Bill and Stephen both agree this business venture is hard work but they also agree that the number of dedicated customers they have developed so far (and are reaching each week) make it all worth it. 

More images:

Grosbeak Gardens
Handmade Soaps and Candles, Garden Inspired Goodies
Reading, VT August 31, 2015
Copyright ©2015 Nancy Nutile-McMenemy
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