Meet Celeste Cobena: The Soap Pedaler
By Sarah Stewart
Celeste Cobena is affectionately known to SoWal locals as The Soap Pedaler. Her passion for creating fragrant handmade soaps, lotions, scrubs and bath fizzies began in 1999 when she made handmade soap for Christmas gifts. Celeste is a regular vendor at the Seaside Farmers Market on saturday mornings and can be seen making deliveries by bicycle up and down the scenic 30A corridor. She pedals up to 50 miles a week just making deliveries. The Soap Pedaler products, or private label by Celeste can be found at Patchouli’s in Rosemary Beach, Raw and Juicy Life in Seaside, For the Health of It in Blue Mountain Beach and Elmore’s Landing on 331, just south of the Bay.
I first met Celeste in the summer of 1999 when I was working at Perspicacity, a rite of passage for many local girls. I remember thinking how radiant her skin was and loved the natural oils and fragrances she used. I had to learn more and discovered shea butter, patchouli oil, sea salt scrubs, natural lemon eucalyptus bug repellent and so much more. I have since had the pleasure of visiting her soap making studio on numerous occasions throughout the years. She does things the old fashioned way, using wooden molds for her soap which she mixes by hand with all natural ingredients. A favorite of mine is her shea butter and lavender soap in which she sprinkles dried lavender on the sides of the bars. She hand cuts each block of soap and creates her own labels, some reflecting local flavor like, Seagrove Sunset and Coastal Dune Lake. I never want to leave her studio but when it’s time to go the fragrances have permeated my clothes so I leave carrying the scent of rose, patchouli, lavender, and mint. Celeste never lets me leave empty handed and I end up with a bag of delightful gifts that uplift the senses and leave one feeling restored. She practices her art on a canvas that transcends soap and scrubs.
Celeste is making her mark on South Walton life by wearing another hat, that of local conservationist and environmental activist. She and her husband, local musician Ted Cobena, met while pursuing degrees in geology at University of Southwestern Louisiana back in the 80’s. They began their careers in the oil industry as geologists but soon discovered this was not the path for them. The natural beauty and pristine beaches led the Cobenas to make South Walton their home in 1991. Ever since, Celeste and Ted have been environmental advocates letting their voices be heard on issues like protecting the state parks and forest lands from development and keeping our beaches clean and accessible. The pedaling part of her business ties into something she is proud of: instigating the off-road bicycle trails in the state parks and forest when much of the conservation land was purchased in 1992. She used her mapping skill learned as a geologist to piece together topographic maps and along with aerial photos map out the interconnected greenway network of trails in the forest and parks.
Celeste currently chairs Beach to Bay Connection Incorporated, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The mission is to protect the state forest and parks in South Walton. They currently they have two projects and more information can be found at www.letitbeforest.com or on the Let it Be Forest Facebook page.