The dry winds out West can be tough on skin – just ask Karen Crook, who grew up in a Texas oil family and was an Air Force missile launch officer in Wyoming. When she and her husband, Gary, later lived in California, her problem with moisture-deprived skin persisted.
She tried a wide range of commercial skin products, but finally decided to use her background in chemistry and biology to find a way to soothe the irritation. Using time-tested ingredients – including aloe vera, olive oil, shea butter and cocoa butter – she started making her own lotions and creams, and gave samples to family and friends.
Before long, they were asking, “When are you going to make some more?”
By 2005, Karen had established her own line of skin care products. The couple moved to Louisville, where she set up kiosks in two malls. Their success inspired her to open a shop, Lexie’s Trading Post, on Bardstown Road in 2008.
The name “Lexie” was left over from several that the Crooks had considered for their children. After son Dylan and daughter Jordan arrived, the third name seemed fine for the store.
A year later, Karen moved out of that location and distributed her products door to door. While making a delivery earlier this year, she noticed that 2224 Frankfort Ave. was available, in the heart of the Crescent Hill and Clifton neighborhoods.
“Most of our clients are in this area, and that’s a big part of the reason we relocated here,” she said. “This address was too good to pass up.”
Customers from the old Highlands location, as well as new shoppers, stop in for Olive Oil-based Bath Salts, Extra Sudsy Shower Gels and Succulent Sugar Scrubs. Skin care items for children have The Giggles Program label, while those for adults are in the Lexie’s of Louisville line.
“We now make more than 75 products,” Karen said. “People are looking for ones that are milder than they can usually find. By combining such basic ingredients, some of which have been used since the eras of Homer and Cleopatra, we make products for the whole family – even our body washes aren’t harsh for little children.”
Unlike most cosmetics stores, Lexie’s Trading Post offers discounted refills of its bath-and-body products.
“This area is big on keeping it ‘green.’ Refilling our customers’ containers saves money for them, and for me as well,” she said. “You don’t even have to bring back the bottle that you bought from us. One man brings in a jar for our pet wash. There is a lady who loves our sugar scrub, but arthritis makes it hard for her to open our big-mouth jar, so she brings me a Rubbermaid sandwich container.”
Sales of Karen’s skin care products help support the Bears For ERs program, which she started as a way to cheer up sick and injured youngsters. More than one thousand stuffed bears, with handmade Get Well cards attached, have been given to Kosair Children’s Hospital.
Although Lexie’s Trading Post is best known for Karen’s Kentucky-made emollients and washes, it also carries pottery, jewelry, candles and other merchandise crafted by local and regional artists. There is even a section of “previously loved” decorative items and accessories.
“Our customers show us the need to get new products or develop them. When people buying lotions wished that we carried greeting cards to put with them, for gifts, we added cards,” she said. “To make a new skin care product, we write down people’s suggestions, then go through as many as 15 stages of formulation. When I think it’s good enough, I give it to several testers, and we either change it or go with it. Whatever the product, we listen to our customers, and do our best to give them exactly what they want.”
Lexie’s Trading Post, 2224 Frankfort Ave., opens at 11 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, and stays open late on F.A.T. Friday (the final Friday of each month). For more information, visit www.lexiestradingpost.com or phone 502.365.4438.