There are few things more enchanting to the senses than natural and beautiful scents. Fortunately for us living in the Providence area, we have our own aromatic haven right off Wayland Square. Providence Perfume Co. was started in 2007 by perfumer Charna Ethier who, after spending years working for Aveda, decided she wanted to create her own line of perfumes made exclusively from natural ingredients. She began entirely online, shipping custom orders from her apartment in Manhattan, and then opening a location on Wickenden Street, which then grew to the new location on South Angell Street.
Charna excitedly shows me around the very open – and of course, beautifully smelling – new storefront. The wonderful smell is without a doubt the first thing you notice when you walk in. The striking pleasant aroma fills your nostrils and you want to linger in it forever. The high ceilings and large windows let in soothing light. Charna’s line of organic perfumes, body oils, shampoos, shower gels, soaps, lotions, hand creams, lip balms and even teas line the neat display shelves and tables. Many of her fragrances have won Fifi awards, the highest honor in the industry. “I’m a natural perfumer so I specialize in natural and organic products. We make almost everything in the store, right here in-house,” Charna explains. Everything is handmade with real ingredients from nature, without synthetic chemicals that are found in most perfumes.
In the back of the store, there’s a station where you can fill your own antique glass bottles with some of the organic body lotions and shower gels from around the store. You can label your bottle with a cute tag for a great gift. If you bring the bottle back, you get a discount for refilling it. The back of the store is also home to the workshop space where Charna hosts the perfume classes she teaches in the spring and the fall.
The front of the store holds one of its most unique, and right now very popular, features – a build your own perfume bar. A wooden shelf set over a small table – actually an old library card file cabinet that Charna found and now uses to file the different perfume combinations that customers have built – is full of cubbies that house bottles of various ingredients. They’re separated into three groups that make up the different flavor buildups of the perfume – starting with the base and making your way up to the top note. Charna or one of the other employees will walk you through how to craft your own perfume in a way that lets you completely make it yourself, both when customizing the oils that go into it and physically combining the ingredients.
It’s pretty spectacular how unique of a place Providence Perfume Co. really is. Most perfumes on the market today are made from synthetic chemicals and not from the real plants and sources that these fragrances originate from. Charna making her own perfumes using exclusively natural ingredients is a rarity. “There are fewer perfumers in the world than astronauts,” she says with a laugh. She explains how wide of a range of fragrances really exist, even coming from the same source – for example, the same exact variety of rose can smell completely different when it’s grown in different parts of the world.
Dive into the world of natural and organic fragrances by checking out Providence Perfume Co.’s website or Facebook page, but of course, the best way to discover a sensation like this is to visit the store and experience it yourself. Your nose will thank you.
Providence Perfume Co.
13 South Angell Street