FOR THE LOVE OF LAVENDER?Filippa Rodittis pictured at her lavender shop, Harvest Breeze.?Pic: Conor McKeown
A calming breeze in Westport
OUR sense of smell is one of the most powerful senses. You know that sudden jolt of nostalgia you get when a certain scent is in the air and you are immediately brought back to a certain time in your life, whether it was in your grandmother’s kitchen making apple tarts or fresh-cut grass on a summer’s evening.
For Sicilian woman Filippa Rodittis lavender is her smell of choice, and she has now made a business out of it.
Filippa has fond memories of lavender being used to protect linen in the family home in her native Sicily, and she began buying products whenever she could from Italian company Lavanda di Venzone, which she now stocks in her shop Harvest Breeze, a celebration of all things lavender.
After an admittedly ‘abrupt’ decision to move to Ireland to gain work experience, Filippa moved to Westport in 2007 and worked as a hotel receptionist for five years.
“Westport is a small amazing place. When you are travelling north of Europe you always find people to be cold, and we [Sicilians] are very loud and outgoing. Then you come to Westport, and you know nobody, and people are greeting you in the street … and I thought ‘God these people are more Sicilian than I am’,” said Filippa giggling.
So what made this hotel receptionist trade in phones for bath oils and soaps? Well, after the celebration of a milestone birthday, she weighed things up. “I wanted to do something that I love to do, something that says something about myself that I can do for maybe ten years … and said I’d really love to try this thing.” And so in April of last year ‘Harvest Breeze’ opened its doors.
The small shop with tonnes of charm stocks anything and everything to do with lavender, from the familiar essential oil itself to the more quirky – lavender-infused balsamic vinegar, lavender and almond biscuits and lavender hot chocolate mix, Harvest Breeze is a purple haven of all things lavender.
After a few teething problems, Filippa is firmly establishing the shop and endearing herself to the people of Westport. “My first day in the shop here I was ridiculous, I was so nervous I couldn’t believe it,” she laughs. But now Filippa has confidence in the niche business and the products she sells. She has visited the Italian company Lavanda di Venzone which is kept at a relatively small scale to ensure that every product is crafted with care.
The shop’s products which are all hypoallergenic, not tested on animals and produced in Northern Italy.
Filippa’s favourites are the range of body sprays and the traditional soaps made from sheep’s milk or coconut milk, infused with lavender.
Most people know that lavender is great for helping people to sleep – a few drops on the pillow or massaged into the soles of the feet works wonders. But according to Filippa it has many more uses: Anti-bacterial properties for acne; anti-inflammatory benefits for muscle pain; balancing properties for dry or oily skin. Lavender can also ease a headache be simply rubbing it on the temples or sprinkling it on a cold muslin and applying it to the forehead.
Filippa explained that the cosmetic creams, shampoos and lotions go a long way. “The products last a long time … In the long term you spend less,” said Filippa adding that once customers try the products, they tend to come back for more.
“Once people try the cosmetics they will come for more or to try something else you know. I know it’s hard when you are looking at a brand you know nothing about, but once you give it a try you will be happy.”
What next for Filippa and Harvest Breeze? Branching out into Lavanda di Venzone’s food products could be on the cards for the adventurous Sicilian. “This company does a beautiful range of culinary products … they do loads … lavender honey, jams, cookies, chocolates … so I would like to have a corner for this.”
Whether it is just to pick up some bath salts, a lip balm or a piece of its charming range of crockery, Harvest Breeze at James’ Street is worth a visit – even the scented bags the products come in will add a whiff of joy.