Hotsy Totsy Haus owner Christi Leonardi (right) and employee Sarah Barba pack products on Wednesday before the store opens on Saturday. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / magazine)
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When Christi Leonardi set out to find a brick and mortar store for her successful bath and beauty shop, Hotsy Totsy Haus, she faced more than the usual hurdles.
Though her brightly colored merchandise has had cult status online for two years and has a place in Oscar gift bags, Leonardi, who is deaf and can read lips, said it was difficult to secure a store front as many property managers prefer to do business over phone calls to do instead of e-mails.
“A lot of people don’t want to bother to communicate,” she said. “They don’t want to write text messages, they don’t want to write emails, they want to make calls.”
Even face-to-face meetings with contractors proved difficult, as wearing masks prevented her lip-reading ability and Leonardi had to rely on a voice-to-text app on her phone.
She said that while she is an avid advocate of masks, it is an extra step in communication and it is common for people to talk to her co-workers rather than her through her app.
“You always want to somehow avoid me and talk to the others,” said Leonardi.
However, that didn’t stop her from landing her new retail business.
Hotsy Totsy House, 10301 Comanche NE, opens today, Saturday, and is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10am to 6pm.
In the new shop in Northeast Heights, bath bombs in the form of crescents, cats’ heads or shells are piled on the tables – all of which Leonardi makes by hand from animal-free ingredients.
Leonardi first turned to bathing creations after finding a way to look after her disabled daughter as a single mother.
Leonardi said she had few job opportunities due to her disability discrimination, and making and selling homemade bath products enabled her to earn an income while looking after her daughter.
Products on display at the Hotsy Totsy house. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / magazine)
Since opening her store in 2014, Leonardi has sold her creations online and at craft shows, while earning a loyal following.
She said that while the pandemic was causing problems in the supply chain as the price of one of its key ingredients doubled, Hotsy Totsy Haus saw a surge in business.
“People really needed to take stress off, you know, to relax because it was so crazy,” said Leonardi.
Leonardi originally began looking for a place to manufacture them after their house had been “completely taken over” by the manufacturing process.
“I was just looking for a place to make them,” she said. “I haven’t looked for or considered a store yet.”
Leonardi said her new store was “a small gift” as it is close to the mountains, in a mall with other great retailers like a plant shop and donut shop, and has parking so customers don’t have one Look for parking space.
A retail location also allows her to interact with customers who may never have communicated with a deaf person.
“I hope to represent the deaf (the small businesses), to show Albuquerque, to show the deaf people, to show children … said Leonardi. “… We are smart, we are intelligent and we can follow our dreams and make them come true.”