Clean Living Clean Giving

Feature photo courtesy of Pantry Products
Pantry Products

A new Reno shop has remedies  for your dry winter skin—and your holiday gift quandaries, too.

In a diverse Reno business district on an avenue named Wells sits a thoroughly modern apothecary called Pantry Products. The brainchild of proprietor Michelle M. Czarka, who first developed her natural skin and body care products for friends and family, Pantry is awash in sunlight and aromas fit for the season. A sign in the front window reads: Welcome all sizes, all colors, all ages, all cultures, all beliefs, all identities, all people, all safe here.

The advice “make quality products and customers will find you” held true for Czarka, who calls herself an “accidental entrepreneur” because she first made yoga mat sprays for herself and friends, then gifts for her mother and others. As requests flooded in, she began selling through Etsy, then launched her flagship store in The Basement Mall in Reno. Her newest location on Wells Ave opened in March 2018.

Inside Pantry’s whitewashed, sun-splashed space, wide aisles and open displays of hand-crafted lotions, creams, salves, soaps, lip balm and more invite browsing. A glance at labels reveals Czarka’s belief in 100 percent transparency. She says, “What you see on the label is what’s in there. You can see what’s going on. There are no fillers and no stabilizers.” Her products, applied with clean hands, should last about a year. Most contain dual-duty essential oils, which not only smell delicious but contain anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.

While organic plant oils and butters come from elsewhere, some ingredients originate in the Truckee Meadows. Czarka taps Sun Valley Honey, Albee’s Honey, local printers, and crafters of accessories such as tea towels, bath cloths, and scrubbers. Future plans call for a local source for lavender and one for herbs. Pantry containers are recyclable, but otherwise may be returned for 10 percent off your next purchase.

Asked how she decided on bike- and pedestrian-friendly Wells Ave for this location, Czarka says, “When I walked in, I knew this was it.” Three or four months of improvements and set-up followed. The effect is an unfussy hipness reflected in quality base ingredients infused with soothing, healing scents such as vetiver, cardamom, balsam, cedar, vanilla and clove.

Michelle M. Czarka
Michelle M. Czarka. Photo by Paula Riley.

For frosty nights there are scented candles and a Warming Chai Milk Bath made with ginger, cinnamon, clove, cardamom and essential oils, spiced lip balm, shampoo bars in rosemary and spearmint, and a hand salve for gardeners or those who shovel walkways and unstring outdoor lights. Dog lovers will find natural dog deodorant, dog wash and a salve to protect puppies’ paws.

For men, think pre- and after-shave sprays, body wash, air and linen sprays, and beard oil. “A lot of my male friends wear beards,” says Czarka. “Beards get scratchy. Conditioning the skin underneath helps stop the itchies” and essential oils fight bacteria and stop the frizzies.

‘Tis the season for parties, thus the host/ hostess gifts in simple containers, ready for giving at a moment’s notice. Custom baskets, too. A creative twist: For events such as baby showers and girls’ night out, bring friends together for a lesson in how to make three or four body care products, such as Candy Cane Body Polish with sugar, grapeseed oil, aloe, vitamin E and essential oils. Because a private party means, well, private, libations and finger foods may be served as desired. Party guests go home with the products they’ve made plus a complimentary Pantry wellness recipe. “It’s kind of nice,” says Czarka, “because the knowledge continues to live on after they get home.” Call it her way of paying forward a cleaner, more transparent approach to life.
1375 Wells Ave., Reno