Special to the Eye
H STREET – Happy Happy Happy 40th Birthday to Bubbles! This year marks the 40th year of one of the most beloved stores in Arcata, owned by Vicky Joyce and her husband Gary Grounds, who are also celebrating the final mortgage payment of the Bubbles factory – both major milestones in anyone’s book.
In this crazy busy noisy world, people from all over travel on vacation to small villages and towns looking for the quaint old time shop where the owner knows you, knows your name, has waited on you, on your mother and father, your grandmother and grandfather – a generational store with a personal touch. For those of us in Arcata, we have that special gift right here with Bubbles. It’s like the old TV show “Cheers” when Norm came in the door and everyone automatically yelled, “NORM!”
When you walk in to Bubbles, you are always greeted with Vicky’s enormous welcoming smile, and chances are she knows your name – or at least she knows who you are – and you feel right at home. Vicky said that one of her biggest pleasures is to have a young person come in and say, “My mom used to shop here when she went to Humboldt,” or to have grandparents who shopped in the early ’70s bring in their adult children and grandchildren to meet her and get them hooked on Bubbles and its many locally made products.
Vicky grew up in Humboldt County and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley.
While living in Berkeley, she cautiously visited the Berkeley Body Shop, which was not a mainstream concept in the late ’60s. It was a darkish, sort of a backroom-type operation, but she immediately saw the value in getting in on the ground floor of what she knew would be a great business opportunity.
“I wanted to be a part of this new movement to make products using natural things like avocado, spices, natural oils, and to explore various scents that would be healing and personal,” she said. Her first purchase at the BBS was an avocado shampoo that put her over the edge in her decision.
Missing Humboldt County and her family after being gone for four years, she came back and started making soap at home and selling it. It was well received and her next move was to rent a space in what is now part of the Minor Theater, in a very very small storefront space. Vicky had one item each on small shelves, and when customers wanted something, she would have to pull back a curtain and go to the back of the store and get what they wanted.
Bubbles’ first actual factory was in the old Varsity Ice Cream building on 11th Street, and as it expanded, it moved to the old Industrial Electric Building on Samoa Boulevard, along with Kokotat and Moonstone Mountaineering.
In 1985, the Aldergrove Industrial Park was established, and on a fresh piece of land the factory was built in the same complex with Kokotat and Moonstone Mountaineering. It was the first building in the now very full Aldergrove. Bubbles’ local products have been manufactured there ever since.
For 40 years, Vicky has been very proud of her locally made products like soap, dish soap (this writer’s favorite), shampoos, bubble bath, bath crystals and much more.
“It is most satisfying knowing I made someone feel good about themselves. Scents are very personal and can be healing.” Vicky raised her two daughters in the store and Mary works there at times. Dave Phillis, Wholesale Manager (and Vicky and Gary’s computer guru for their online website where you can shop), has worked there for over 30 years. It’s a family business and Vicky and Gary make sure you are part of their family.
Stop by on Arts! Arcata nights and you will be offered one of Vicky’s homemade cookies and hear the wonderful sounds of the Clean Livin’ bluegrass band, with Gary on the bass. Join them at the 4th of July Crabs game which will feature a big happy birthday song by the Crabgrass Band for the Bubbles family. And maybe you will see a Bubbles parade as well.