New shop inside the Bay City Town Center provides all-natural products and unique gift ideas

Last-minute gift items – especially unique ideas – are only as far away as a new natural products store in the Bay City Town Center.

Essentially Unique, which opened in September is offering “build-your-own” gift baskets that can be filled with all kinds of lotions, balms, and teas.

Most of what you'll find inside Essentially Unique was handmade using all-natural ingredients.Owner Kristin Allen started out making balms and butters for her kids and husband, Weston, but it wasn’t long before she was looking into making and selling all kinds of natural sundries, including soaps, bath salts, facial scrubs, and even beard balm.

Kristin, a nurse at MyMichigan Health in Midland is also studying to be a naturopathic doctor at the Naturopathic Institute for Therapies and Education in Mount Pleasant.

Beginning in 2018, Kristin set up at in-person shows and posted online sales, but Weston says she was outgrowing that. Then, when the pandemic hit and shows were getting canceled, Kristin needed a new venue. “We were doing a lot of online sales, but people wanted to smell it and see it.”

One day, when the Allens were at the Bay City Town Center, they noticed an empty storefront and decided to look into the opportunity.

“We decided to go ahead and try it as a business – as a stationary location so that people can actually come in and see the product, smell it, look at it,” Weston says.

In September, Essentially Unique opened.

“Everything we have in our store is handmade and as organic as we can be, other than the oils,” says Weston, who runs the store while Kristin works at the hospital as a resource nurse. Kristin not only works 40-plus hours a week, she also makes the products at home and takes care of their two children.

“The big thing with her is health,” Weston says.

She got started after examining the labels of products in her home. She researched the ingredients and was concerned that some could be toxins. “She wanted to try to get rid of toxins. Then she realized she could help people.”

Make-your-own gift baskets are a popular purchase during December at Essentially Unique in the Bay City Town Center.Each of the products has been tested and re-tested, Weston says. Once Kristin is happy with the product, she writes a description of everything she’s used to create it. The goal is to help her customers make informed choices.

“Her ultimate plan is to be to hire someone to help her, but even if it gets big, she wants to continue to hand-make everything,” Weston says. “Unlike some places that use machines, we know what goes into every product.”

The shop is gaining a following through social media and weekly specials. People are interested in seeing the product lines grow, he says. During the holiday season, they’ve seen people looking for something different to give family and friends.

“Right now, we have a bunch of empty gift boxes and people can pick up the box, then put in whatever they want – mix and match,” he says.

They came up with the “build-your-own” gift box idea to give customers a chance to try different products or purchase them for friends and family. Once customers fill the gift box with products such as herbal teas, bath bombs, and bath salts, a discount is applied based on the total price.

Each morning Weston posts the day’s specials on social media and can be followed at