A small shop in the Uptown Shopping Center helps customers create their own signature scent.
Shannon Franklin is a fragrance alchemist who offers custom fragrances as a way to “help our customers to express their uniqueness while indulging in a bit of luxury,” she said.
She opened Atomic Alchemy at 226 Williams Blvd. in December.
The Richland shop offers custom perfume blending, as well as a signature line of pre-mixed and bottled eau de toilettes, lotions and diffuser oils she formulates herself.
Franklin’s services begin with a one-on-one interview.
“Even something as simple as saying they want a summer fragrance, which tells me they’re looking for something fruity, sweet and bright,” can be a first step in zeroing in on the scents that may comprise the final product, she said.
Once Franklin has an idea of preferred smells, she begins selecting from roughly 250 different fragrance oils, aroma chemicals and essential oils, placing them on blotter strips for the client to smell.
“I’ve definitely noticed a lot of interest in earthier scents (in Tri-Cities),” she said.
When the client identifies a scent that resonates, “we hold onto that strip and start to build the fragrance.”
The goal is to collect strips that will translate into base, mid and top notes.
Once enough strips come together, the task is to blend the perfect combination that hits on all three to produce a lasting fragrance that makes an impression.
“Then we work in ratios with droppers and tiny beakers. I use my own intuition on what I think would be a good combination,” she said.
“One of the benefits of perfume blending is there is no right or wrong blend. If a customer loves what we make together, then it is a win.”
Once the perfect formula is found, Franklin dilutes it in perfumer’s alcohol and bottles it on the spot.
“I do have the option to use sweet almond oil for people who are sensitive to alcohol,” she said.
Ali McCartney, owner of The Lavender Rooster in Eltopia, is a fan.
“My personal experience was incredible, and Shannon created a dream scent of my own that I proudly wear,” she said.
“This is a once in a lifetime experience that only her store provides. You will walk out of Atomic Alchemy with not just wonderful product, but with an extra pep in your step for the rest of the day,” she said.
The process to design a 2-ounce personalized perfume takes about an hour and costs the same as many popular fragrances at department stores – $100.
Customers can get refills by bringing their empty bottles. The cost to refill your fragrance runs $65.
Franklin also hosts blending parties for groups starting at $300.
Those interested in a custom blending session can call or book online.
The difference between Franklin’s formulations and mass-produced fragrances is the latter likely won’t disclose what’s in their proprietary formulas.
Franklin sources her essential oils from Vancouver, Washington-based Wholesale Botanics, which are Good Manufacturing Process (GMP) certified, as well as phthalate- paraben- and sulfate-free.
“So, the cleanest oils you can get, though that doesn’t mean you might not still have a sensitivity,” Franklin said. She’s proud none of her products carry the California Proposition 65 statement, which alerts consumers about ingredients known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.
Though consumers may find security in tried-and-true off-the-shelf fragrances, Franklin stands by her blends.
“I spend plenty of time with each client to ensure they love their blend. I won’t send them home with a scent they don’t love. It gives the customers a lot of control over the product,” she said.
A self-described bloodhound, Franklin began her journey into fragrance several years ago while living in Seattle and later Los Angeles, where she dabbled in custom fragrances in workshops and through private blending sessions like those she now offers.
“My first interest was in creating and being a maker … There was this store in Seattle that I just loved where everything was local and consigned and very artsy and I thought, ‘Gosh, I just really want to do something like this someday,’ ” she said.
Two years ago, Franklin made the move to Tri-Cities with her now 2 1/2-year-old daughter to escape the high cost of living as a single parent. Her parents already lived in the area; her mother Lana Franklin co-owns Encore Realty.
“I was working remotely here, but I wasn’t able to keep the job because I couldn’t find child care. So, I decided I needed to do something and that this was the time,” she said.
Using savings and credit, Franklin made the investments in her fragrance oils and other upfront costs to launch the business.
Her mom offered up unused office space at Encore as an incubator. Cubicle walls came down and chic display racks went up.
In addition to perfume blending, Atomic Alchemy is a gift shop focused on Tri-City-made goods and others produced by Pacific Northwest companies.
“I just like to see the character of the local spirit and something that’s important to me is having an inclusive space. I want to have people from all walks feel comfortable here … I just love promoting people’s creativity,” Franklin said.
Rather than take on the overhead risk of buying merchandise wholesale, she mostly operates on consignment, working with companies who offer the option to return items that don’t sell within 60 days.
“I’m always looking for new vendors, as I rotate merchandise all the time,” Franklin said, adding she has begun periodically hosting pop-up events for additional vendors.
“Her products are hilarious, sweet, loving, and fun. If you want to find the perfect gift for someone, including yourself, this is your store,” McCartney said.
Franklin has been experimenting with creating her own herbal tea blends, which are available in the shop.
She said the second phase of Atomic Alchemy is to expand her space and offerings to accommodate a one-stop shop apothecary for herbs, lye, beeswax, soy wax, fragrance oils and other DIY ingredients.
In the near-term, on the perfume blending side, she is looking to begin offering options for add-on fragrance sizes and lotions.
She also is preparing her signature scent products to present for wholesale to gift shops and luxury hotel and resort purveyors around Washington.
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