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This scrub's got grit: Duluth body products business gives used coffee grounds new life

Clinton Kollars adds coconut oil to olive oil while making a batch of Bang Bang Body Balm recently. Kollars is co-owner of Pretty Gritty Body, which uses grounds from Duluth Coffee Co. in body balms and serums. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com1 / 7
Clinton Kollars melts raw shea butter into hot olive oil in an improvised double boiler. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com2 / 7
Clinton Kollars adds beeswax to a balm he’s making. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com3 / 7
Clinton Kollars pours a body balm into a tin to cool. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com4 / 7
Clinton Kollars adds essential oils to a body balm. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com5 / 7
Cold Press Scrub is one of the products Pretty Gritty Body makes. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com6 / 7
Jess Rossing checks the aroma of a batch of Bang Bang Body Balm just made by Clinton Kollars. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com7 / 7

One company's compost became the start of a business — and it all began with coffee.

Clinton Kollars noticed an influx of cold press coffee grounds at Duluth Coffee Co. With a friend's suggestion and owner Eric Faust's blessing, Kollars started experimenting.

From that came body scrubs and balms and eventually Pretty Gritty Body, a local company by Kollars and Jessica Rossing, with offerings at Duluth Coffee Co., Evolve Duluth and Juice Pharm.

On Thursday, a jug of coffee-infused grapeseed oil, a bag of beeswax pellets and a 16-pound tub of organic African shea butter sat on the counter in the coffee shop's upper level.

Kollars stood over a metal pot with boiling water; in it was a glass measuring cup warming ingredients for Pretty Gritty's Bang Bang Body Balm. You need a barrier between the pan or flame surface, Kollars explained, and this is a quick way to build out a double boiler system.

Kollars has his process down to a science now, but it wasn't always like that.

When he first started exploring, there were giant racks and dehumidifiers with coffee laid out on paper in his living room. "I had hundreds and hundreds of pounds of coffee in my place," he said.

"You could just smell the coffee walking up to the house," Rossing said.

There was a learning curve with timing and drying the grounds, Kollars said. If you wait too long: "It's like cigarettes or an ashtray," said Sam Levar, who recalled Pretty Gritty's trial-and-error days:

"'This is not oily enough, it's just too granulated; you want more of a paste. Too strong of scent.'"

Levar, sales manager at Duluth Coffee Co., said it's fun to see how the business has evolved — and turning coffee grounds into a body scrub makes sense. The longer coffee roasts, the more the sugars come to the outside of the beans. "That's what gives it that glossiness," Levar said, and that compound mixes well with the oils in Pretty Gritty's scrubs.

Along with shea butter and coffee-infused grapeseed oil, Kollars and Rossing use coconut oil. Also in their repertoire: cinnamon, black lava salt, vanilla bourbon CO2 and a mix of essential oils.

One of the most difficult parts of the process was figuring out the right scent combination.

"It's almost impossible, and you could spend a lot of money trying to find something that's your original smell," Kollars said.

But now, they've nailed it down.

Dripping peppermint oil into the balm concoction, he whispered a count to himself.

"A couple of drops over another one will throw it out of whack."

Rossing pulled her personal tin of balm out of her purse. It felt silky and substantial with hints of lemon. For Rossing, the balm's scent changes. There's an initial smell when you first put it on, and the coffee aroma comes out after it's been on for awhile, she said.

Rossing handles the communications, craft show bookings and the promotions for the company, while Kollars creates the formulas for their products behind the scenes.

"Clint's the mastermind," she said. "Clint created all of it, the verbiage, the recipes. I'm more of the business person."

And the two are partners in business and in life.

"She works so much harder than I do on this at this point because I have so many other types of work," Kollars said. (His day job is maintaining rental properties; hers is running Evolve Duluth.)

"We're a good team," Rossing said, and the business is something the couple can do together. It's been that way since Pretty Gritty's beginning, when Kollars wanted to launch something eco-friendly.

Partnering with Pretty Gritty saves time and labor for Duluth Coffee Co., owner Faust said, adding that people "have found out about us because they've washed with our coffee. ... It's cool to see our product be up-cycled in a way that I didn't imagine before."

In the kitchen, Kollars dipped a fondue skewer in his budding body balm. After a few minutes, he massaged the solidifying product into his forearm. He poured the honey-like liquid into a tin.

Rossing leaned down to smell it with closed eyes. "That's a pretty successful batch," he said.

That's werewolf-tested and unicorn-approved — which is a guarantee stamped on each of Pretty Gritty's products. ("I guess we are werewolf and unicorn," Kollars said.)

These mythical characters also make their way into the names of their goods "Werewolf Scent #1" and "Unicorn Scent #1." These creatures do fit the realm of beauty products, Kollars said. People associate unicorns with beauty, and werewolves with a dark and lone figure, but outside of that — Kollars just likes them.

"I've always been a big fan, as a child, with fantasy writing and 'Lord of the Rings.' I'm 45, so I grew up when fantasy writing was still popular. I never really lost that appetite for science fiction writing and fantasy film."

On another level, he likes pairing beauty with something that's not real.

"We've been so locked into saying what a woman should look like or what a man should look like. With these ideas (of werewolf and unicorn), it doesn't give you a form of what is beautiful."

Kollars didn't use body scrubs before launching the business, and he mostly uses it to test it out. He said he hopes people are getting pleasure out of their products versus worrying how it will alter appearance.

Coffee-based scrubs claim certain results, Rossing said. Some common ones she has heard are to clear cellulite, eczema or acne — but Pretty Gritty doesn't promise that.

"We do say it cures lycanthropy," Kollars said, with a laugh.

The pair aims to create a product that is an overall experience, they said. The grounds, sea salt and coconut sugar will help exfoliate, Rossing said. The grapeseed, coconut oils help moisturize. "It's not a miracle thing. ... just enjoy."

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Melinda Lavine

Lavine is a features and health reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. 

(218) 723-5346