Candlemakers expanding operation into storefront
In the "kitchen" of Creative Aromas, April Dean pours the last batch of wax into small bean jars. On her worktable are dozens of jars and graniteware containers, all filled with varying colors and scents of freshly poured candle wax.
Some of these candles are part of a 1,200-candle order for a Lake of the Ozarks gift shop. And some will stock the shelves for April and Nelson Dean's Oct. 8 opening of their Tonganoxie shop at 626 E. Fourth St., just west of the Lil' Mom and Pop Shop.
The Deans will stock three lines of Tonganoxie-made products in their shop: Stranger Creek candles, Auntie Oxidants bath and body products and Wild Things Potpourri.
April, an "almost retired" nurse practitioner who worked in hospital intensive care units, said the recent weeks have been challenging, because while preparing for their shop's opening, she has been working 16-hour days to fill candle orders for out-of-town gift shops.
"Right now it's pretty stressful because we have an opening date," Dean said. "But it's fun, it's a whole different kind of stress from nursing. If we make a mistake it doesn't really matter. We try to do what we can, but nobody's going to die here it's a different kind of stress."
Nelson Dean works as director of nursing at the Leavenworth and Topeka Veterans Administration hospitals. The couple, who has lived in Tonganoxie for nine years, live near downtown Tonganoxie, just about one-half block from their shop.
For them, candle making began as a hobby.
"It was just something fun to get away from all the stress," Dean said. "I just decided that this is the next step of life."
Dean said her goal is to sell a large volume of candles at a low price. Their seven-ounce candle sells for $4.75.
"Most candles are expensive," she said. "You don't want to burn it, it's too expensive, so you wait for a special occasion to burn it."
And, she wants her customers to have plenty of scents and colors to choose from.
"When we get up to snuff we're going to have over 200 scents of candles," Dean said.
While some of the Deans' candles are made of paraffin, others are made from soybean wax.
The soy candles have a softer appearance, and a buyer recently told Dean they look more like jars of pudding than candles. And, Dean said, once a candle has finished burning, the soy residue is easier to wash out of the container than paraffin.
The Deans start their candle making process by melting the wax in a water-jacket heater that will hold 150 pounds of wax at 200 degrees. They have nicknamed the heater "Eyegore" because of its one-eyed appearance.
Dean said last week she was glad summer's high temperatures had taken a break. While making candles she can't have the air conditioner or a fan on. And, the jars themselves have to be at least 90 degrees before wax can be poured into them. Dean said while candles are sold ready made in purchased jars, she's also happy to make candles in containers that customers bring in.
So far, sales to other gift shops have proven productive.
"We have stickers on our bottles and people are calling us to order more," Dean said.
Despite the pressure to fill the shop's shelves by Oct. 8, Dean said she likes the work.
"It's a little like cooking and I've always loved to cook," she said. "It's fun you can be creative with it."