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Officina Santa Maria Novella

February 27, 2012

As with every major city, there are places you have to see.  Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower, the Sphinx, you get the idea.  The same applies to Florence, where the Duomo is the typical stop for most people.  I’d argue a visit to Florence isn’t complete without a visit to Officine Santa Maria Novella.  The store itself is well worth a visit, but it’s also the go to spot for all things good smelling and where you can pick up something memorable for the missus.  Sure there are a few free-standing stores around the world, but they don’t hold a torch to the original.

For the last 400 years, Officine Santa Maria Novella has held residence in the same location as a retailer of specialty cosmetics perfumes and herbal products.  The original store remains in use and unchanged, where the only alterations include opening additional space in the adjoining convent, which all predate the signing of the U.S. Constitution.  Inside feels more like a pharmaceutical temple than a cosmetics retailer.  While in Florence we paid the token visit to S.M. Novella as well as their nearby production facility where we met with the current owners to discuss the 400 year old brand.

Located about 15 minutes away from the store sits the site of all S.M Novella production.  Respecting their history while embracing their future is probably the best way of describing the production facility.  Wrapped in a modest facade sits a state of the art compound where some of the most advanced techniques are coupled with people still doing things by hand.  Here they produce soaps, perfumes, candles, liquors; everything with an S.M. Novella label (which are also still applied by hand).

The facility is nothing shy of impressive and is like an amazing smelling science lab.  Many of the items for sale at S.M. Novella date back hundreds of years, however most of production has been updated using some of the most modern techniques.  Still, several items continue to be made using traditional methods or entirely by hand, but regardless of technique, quality is never forfeit.  The quality of their products is what S.M. Novella hangs their hat on and why they’ve been around almost half a millennium.  As we walked through the facility it’s clear that they understand this as much as anyone where every product still receives final approval from a human.  There’s a firm belief that as long as they never sacrifice the quality of their products, they’ll continue to sell them.  I agree with this logic and despite a zero marketing budget, last year was their best year to date, so it’s safe to say customers do too.

It wasn’t all that long ago that I was turned onto S.M. Novella, but I was immediately impressed by the brand for both product and history.  They also do a really good job with their packaging, which I discovered is also done in-house.  Using centuries old recipes, there products are among the best (in my opinion).  As a company’s story is concerned; did I mention they’ve been around for 400 years? [Officina Profumo – Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella]

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 28, 2012 10:31

    I love their products… timeless and of the highest quality.

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