Front Porch: Candles entice with scents of the season
By ELIZABETH BETTENDORF
Published November 11, 2005
On a gorgeous Florida winter day, the Homegrown Candle Market in downtown Plant City throws open its doors and sends the scents of the holiday season "sailing into the streets," says Andy Hamilton, co-owner of the market nestled in an 800-square-foot historic storefront.
Hamilton's business partner, Rick Myers, started the company five years ago out of his home in Seminole Heights as a way to relax. The business grew so large that they moved it to the Plant City shop at 104 W Reynolds St. one year ago.
"We're still using his same original recipe book," says Myers of the 60 to 80 custom varieties of scents that flavor their votives, tapers, tea lights and candle-filled travel tins and canning jars.
The market stands as a sweet-smelling beacon at the holiday season: Apple cinnamon, pumpkin spice, mulled cider, cranberry spice, frankincense and myrrh, banana-nut bread and mulberry beckon visitors into the little shop where all the candles are poured by hand the old-fashioned way.
Aroma, says Myers, continues to be the hottest draw in the candle business today.
"The most popular scent is whatever we're making on a particular day, because people like the smell," Myers says.
In fact, those richly scented, ruffle-edged wax tarts, warmed by tea-light or burner, continue to burgeon in popularity. And they don't even have wicks.
Each little tart, made from a real pastry mold Myers and Hamilton bought from a baking company, lasts eight to 12 hours and sends out a rich scent.
The Candle Market privately labels its candles for other businesses.
"We've been sending big orders to shops in London, to Sarasota, to New Tampa," Hamilton says. "And our biggest night is Plant City's Bike Night once a month. We have to stay open late."
In fact, customers from Brandon to Winter Park flock year-round to the market, in a former jewelry store where Hamilton, a Plant City native, once bought his high-school ring.
In the spring, the shop sells little flats of strawberry-shaped candles in homage to the town's famous annual Strawberry Festival. At Christmas, they sell a plethora of candle-filled decorative gift baskets ranging from $12.99 to $300.
They can customize their scents with unexpected color "like a blueberry-scented pink candle," Myers explains.
Their candles mirror trends in the industry: They're made from soy, paraffin and lately palm wax, which burns clean, but looks "sparkly and beautiful" at the same time.
Still, he says, "it's all about the aroma - everyone is buying for aroma."
"We're immune to it. We can't even smell it anymore," Myers says. "When people ask us what the wonderful smell is coming from our store, we just say, "It's candle-shop scent.' "
The National Candle Association, an organization that represents the interests of the candle industry, offers these trend and decor tips for the 2005 holiday season: 1. Place large pillar candles in glass lanterns or hurricane holders and arrange them in pairs at the end of a mantel or as a focal point on a coffee table.
2. For elegance and added drama on a dining table place votive candles on a mirrored tray. (Put them in small glass candleholders if you don't want a mess.) Sprinkle around a handful of metallic confetti for added sparkle.
3. Add a few floating candles into a large crystal or glass bowl.
4. Those tall, thin tapers aren't just for the dining room anymore. Group tapers in the same color family at one end of the mantel, on a buffet or as a centerpiece.
5. Transform a garden, courtyard or walkway for a holiday party with luminaria, or try a pair of iron sconces or a candelabra mounted on an outside wall.
6. Consider using metallic or uniquely textured candles for extra artistic punch.
7. Try a variety of seasonal scents throughout the house, including gingerbread, cinnamon, mocha, pumpkin, apple pie, brown sugar and hazelnut. They make a house smell as lovely as Thanksgiving Day, even if you're not making anything more than a cup of tea.