Fashion retailer turned farmer, Sandra Hooper, introduces a luxurious natural sleep aide to the Wilmington boutique market.
Sponsored by Eclipse Artisan Boutique.
Prime fleece, alpaca seconds, skirting pelts, cria – none of this was part of Sandra Hooper’s vocabulary as a high-powered, type A general manager of a 40+ employee premium retail store in Northern Virginia 20 years ago. But, she knew, even then, that her love of animals, her equestrian-born knowledge of animal husbandry, and her aptitude for retail would eventually blend to create the fork in the road she would happily take.
Alpaca Bedding Co.
Sandra is one-of-a-kind, as are most of the artists and boutique business owners on display at Eclipse Artisan Boutique in Wilmington, NC. And, so is her company. Alpaca Bedding Co. is one of five alpaca bedding vendors in the world, and the only one in the U.S.A. Eclipse is the only shop in the country to carry her line.
How it All Began
“My segue into alpaca farming was actually the result of a bad case of empty nester’s syndrome,” Sandra said.
After raising strong, independent children who went on to make their way in the world, she wondered, “what next?”. While she knew her proximate venture would involve farming and animals, she wasn’t quite sure how. Extensive research led her to alpacas.
“They’re extremely clean animals,” Sandra said. “They’re easy on the land, they rarely get sick, and overall, they’re just super-low maintenance, lovely animals.” Not to mention, they carry around one of the finest, softest fibers in the world, alpaca fleece, which was also a pretty major draw for the retail-minded, soon-to-be farmer.
Sandra’s dedication to both the animals and the trade was as passionate and fierce as her dedication to motherhood and her previous career. Every ounce of shorn fleece was used for something – yarn, clothing, blankets, etc. – and every animal sent to shows had been extensively “bred up”.
In the process of improving the breed, Sandra found that the “seconds”, as they’re known – the fiber shorn from the shoulders and the legs – was nearly as soft and high-quality as the “coats” (from the alpaca backs).
“With the supremely high-quality and quantity we were getting, I knew there was a better way to put the seconds to use.”
And, with that, the third (now one of five) alpaca bedding manufacturer in the world was born.
Alpaca Bedding Co.
While farming has served her well over the past ten years, Sandra recently sold her herd in Virginia, and has permanently settled in Wilmington, NC. She now focuses solely on the design, manufacturing and distribution of the Alpaca Bedding Co., all of which are sourced from North Carolina alpaca farmers.
“When you sleep over an alpaca mattress pad, under an alpaca duvet, or lay your head on alpaca-stuffed pillow, you honestly can never go back to anything else. It literally improves your quality of sleep.”
Sandra’s mattress pads are quite a bit thicker than average. Her mattress pads are 2 ½ inches thick as opposed to her competitors’ ½ inch thick pads. And, the duvets have much more fleece to them.
“There’s a memory to Alpaca fiber,” she said. “And, the thickness allows it to provide comfort and support to your body.”
Alpaca fleece is the cashmere soft, water-repellent, hypo-allergenic cousin to wool. It’s fire retardant, it wicks, and it instantly acclimates to your body temperature.
Because alpaca fiber lacks lanolin, it repels pathogens, and very rarely needs to be cleaned.
In the event that it must be cleaned, a mild detergent, a bathtub, and a day in the sun is all that’s needed. The Alpaca Bedding Co. provides a cleaning service, if desired.
Never having to “warm up” in bed is another major perk. It happens instantaneously with alpaca.
And, if waking up hot is an issue, it won’t be with alpaca.
“Regardless of thickness, alpaca keeps you only as warm as you want to be,” Sandra said. “We do carry a lighter duvet for southeastern customers, simply because of the weight preference. I find that northern friends prefer a heavier grade.”
Why Alpaca Bedding?
To be well, as the adage goes, you must rest well.
And according to Sandra, and her customers, you’ll never rest better than you do when you’re on or under alpaca bedding. Period.
Eclipse Artisan Boutique carries a variety of Alpaca products, including stuffed animals produced by Alpaca Bedding Co., as well as alpaca-covered soaps and dryer balls made by Poplar Hill Alpacas and Studio. Eclipse is located at 203 Racine Dr. adjacent to Blue Moon Gift Shop. Online orders are welcome. Don’t miss their holiday open house Saturday, November 11th! See details below.