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Best Soap Store: An enchanting sensory overload 

Hydra

You've never seen, or smelled, so many soaps. The aroma is intoxicating in this bath and body store in Berkeley's upscale Fourth Street shopping district. The giant faucet fixture perched above the front entrance may hint at the whimsy contained within, but until you've strolled inside and taken a big whiff, you haven't a clue. The vivid visual treat of Hydra's myriad handmade signature soaps follows closely behind. Varieties with names like Haight Ashbury, Pint o' Guinness, Twin Peaks, Banana Split, and Honeysuckle, expertly designed to resemble their namesakes in sight and smell, are irresistible in just about every way — the only trouble is choosing between them. Hydra also sells bath salts, olive oil soap bars, effervescent bath "chill pills," and accessories. Rounding off the nearly overwhelming instore experience, Hydra plans to introduce live soapmaking in its two locations (the flagship is in San Francisco). There's even a drop-in soap bar for DIY customers. Nice bonuses, but nothing can rival the sensory flood of that first step inside.

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