The Season is Aglow with Connecticut Candles
By Barbara Malinsky/Photo by Connecticut Candle and the Higganum Company
“How far that little candle beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.” William Shakespeare
December craves light! When the setting sun drops below the horizon in midday, we dispel the darkness by bringing light inside with fireplaces aflame, decorative electric lighting, and candles. Though candles are used throughout the year for various occasions, their impact is greatest in winter for the holiday season and throughout the dreary, dark, and cold days. Their glow bestows a sense of warmth creating a cozy atmosphere.
The ancient Romans are generally credited with developing the wicked candle by dipping rolled papyrus repeatedly in melted tallow or beeswax. The resulting candles were used to light their homes, aid travelers at night, and in religious ceremonies.
In Connecticut, there are a variety candle brands. You can purchase a mass-produced paraffin (petroleum) product or the handmade detail of a soy candle produced by a variety of family owned small businesses that lovingly create them in small batches. Making soy candles has become a cottage industry here.
Connecticut Candle was founded by Kristen and Andy Teshoney who have been making candles for almost a decade. Based in West Haven, they started with the moniker Two Guys Who Make Scents that still exists for craft shows, events, and online ordering. Connecticut Candle was created as a separate brand devoted to retail. Both are high quality candles with the same scents but two different marketing plans. They chose soy because of its hypoallergenic characteristics. “If it weren’t for soy, I wouldn’t be a candle maker,” remarked Andy Teshoney.
They have a devoted following which frequents craft shows and purchase candles for use all year. “It’s always a great feeling when our products are one of those few items that they always return for. We are dedicated to what we do and it’s way more than a business to all of us. The creation of each scent is accomplished by rigorous testing. It is an ongoing learning process determining wax types, wicking materials, failed attempts at getting our scents blended right, scented oil variations, changes in suppliers, and more. Every variation means a chance that the next batch won’t be perfect and ends up wasted. It also means we might create the next successful scent and so we keep trying.
It is also a vision of what we feel is the right visual representation of our candles. We chose the classic apothecary jar with a simple label. The simplicity of the style of the jar and its labeling allow our scents to be the focus of our product. With both our brands, we have kept the basic theme the same – simple brown kraft material with a minimum of imaging and clutter.”
The company follows the same guidelines with its custom named labels as well. When they do private labeling, they keep the same focus on the quality of the scents, not distracting labels. Their candles are sold throughout the state and the northeast. They are a recognized commodity in the Adirondack Mountains for a well-known country store’s private brand, Adirondack Loon, to a hair salon in Milford, Connecticut with its own propriety candle scent Perfectly Dunne. They work with storeowners to ensure that their candles represent the image that they want to portray while still ensuring their clean, simple, classic style.
The more people who focus on making high quality candles means that more people will understand the differences in performance scent diffusion. “People will notice the performance of our candles versus the bargain candles sold at less than the cost of the materials we use for our production. By properly selecting our materials and sourcing from reputable distributors and material manufacturers, we produce candles we can be proud of. As a matter of fact, we guarantee our candles. If someone isn’t happy with a candle, just send it back: we will replace it, including free shipping. Our retailers know we give them full credit for it; no questions asked. How often does this happen? Infrequently enough that we’ve never even questioned a ‘no questions asked’ guarantee.”
“We specialize in making incredible quality candles with amazing scents. We develop products based on our interactions with our individual buyers, not mass market research. We talk with people who want to know if we can make a clove candle, or a Plumeria candle, or one that smells like Grandpa’s vacation home with hints of cedar, Beachwood, and the bottle of rum he kept hidden behind his rocker. That resulted in the Weekend at the Cabin candle. Our products come from clients’ ideas like remembering a cruise that produced Drink of the Day and Boat Drinks. Fudgy Brownie is named for our favorite dessert. Another was just a crazy goal to improve oil we bought that smelled like rotting moss but, when blended with six other oils, it became Appalachian Trail, one of our top selling fresh earthy scents of 2013. It is about a personal touch, a love of aromatics, and a commitment not to disappoint our next client to our last.”
Whether you purchase a Connecticut Candle or one produced by their competitors, there is a link that binds them all – a love of making a quality product. “Although we may have differences of opinion on what a scent should smell like, what the right packaging is, and other factors, we all produce a high quality product. We are all consistent in what we make and believe that the market is growing for people who appreciate the benefits of what premium quality candles offer.” Teshoney feels that they are at the beginning of a candle renaissance, comparing Connecticut candle companies to what the Micro-Brew and Craft beers accomplished for the beer industry or what Alex and Ani did for the lower end jewelry market.
The Higganum Company was started by Megan Mularski who was searching for a cleaner and longer burning candle alternative for her family. When she discovered soy wax candles, the Higganum Company became a reality. “Soy is American grown, sustainable, eco-friendly, carbon neutral, long lasting and clear burning. Our goal is to offer the best selection of candles. We continuously research and test our candle tarts to bring the best quality candle to your home. It took a long time to figure out recipes, which waxes to use, the best fragrances, and which threw off the best scents. It has taken five years of developing specific recipes for these fabulous and pleasantly potent candles and we are proud to offer them to you.”
Mularski is a practicing nurse and mother of four children. When she was on maternity leave, she delved into candle making as a hobby at first. It soon became a family affair with the children participating. “The wax is not too hot so it is not dangerous. The candles also burn at a lower temperature and the wax cleans up easily with soap and water. My second child loves going to craft fairs so she has become our market baby.”
The Higganum Company also creates special blends for private labels, fundraisers, weddings, and other special occasions. They can be found in Washington, D.C. as two private brands. Locally, the company recently created Apple Harvest as a fundraiser for the Middletown High School Dragons. One of the company’s signature specialties is the coconut shell candleholder. As a nurse, she is also aware of the power of scents like eucalyptus, lemon, mint, and lavender for medicinal benefits. With a sense of humor, she has also created a line of candles just for men called Mandles. These have scents that men, she says, can relate to such as Bacon, Fresh Cut Grass, Curve Cologne, Leather, Beer, and Dirt. “After all these years, we are still having fun making candles, creating something with our own hands,” she exclaimed.
Whether you choose Connecticut Candle, The Higganum Company, Stormy Mountain Candle Company, Silver City, Connecticut River Candles or others, you are supporting a local business based in Connecticut where craftspeople are creating and innovating, bringing the best they have to your home. They are lighting up your special events giving them a unique character and warming your days.