Candles to relax by, made in Pembine
Our Town Pembine, Beecher, Dunbar
Lighting a scented candle is a classic way to wind down — think aromatherapy and the mesmerizing, flickering flame.
Turns out making candles can offer much the same benefits, said Vince Czahor of Hearts in Wax in Pembine, Wis.
Their modest side business grew from his wife, Rebecca, trying her hand at making soy wax candles in their Pembine home in 2012, after first picking up a soy candle seven years earlier at a gift shop in Park Falls, Wis. The candle retained its fragrance through all those years and “she fell in love,” Vince Czahor said.
When they couldn’t find more soy candles nearby, they decided to produce their own and became hooked on the hobby.
“It’s just relaxing,” said Vince, 39. “We love the scent of candles.”
Eight years later, he and Rebecca still pour the candles in their home kitchen when not teaching — he is librarian, technology coordinator, American government and coding and web design teacher at Beecher-Dunbar-Pembine School District, while she is an online high school English electives instructor with the Wisconsin Virtual School.
Profits from candle sales go into college savings plans for their three sons: Gabe, 11; Xander, 6; and Lucas, 5. All three boys now are old enough to help and accompany them to some of the craft shows that are their primary route for sales.
Vince Czahor touts soy wax as superior to the more familiar paraffin, a petroleum-based substance he says smokes and produces soot that can smudge containers, walls and ceilings.
The soy wax, made with oil from soybeans grown in the Midwest, burns clean, he said. They also use natural cotton wicks, rather than anything that contains zinc or other additives that might make it burn hotter but perhaps again send up soot.
Soy wax has a longer burn time as well, he said. But it is softer than paraffin, so has to be poured into a container such as a glass jar, ceramic bowls or mugs or metal tins. Still, that doesn’t keep Rebecca from being creative with the items they offer, he said.
They work a lot with clear glass jars topped with domed stoppers that Rebecca decorates from within. Right now, wreaths, small ornaments and tinsel are popular.
She’s also used ceramic figures that look like waterfowl, along with mugs and other crockery. The mugs are paired with candle scents like cappuccino and hot chocolate fudge, Rebecca’s personal favorite.
“When we’re pouring coffee scents, it’s like we’re working in a Starbucks,” Vince Czahor said.
The scents for their candles come from various fragrant oils they purchase, with names like Northwoods Evergreen, Spiced Cranberry, Japanese Cherry Blossom, Cedar and Vanilla, Pumpkin Pie, Mulberry, Toasted Hazelnut, Balsam, Teakwood and Lemongrass. Much of their supplies are ordered through Bitter Creek Candle Supply Inc. of Ashland, Wis.
At any given time, the business will have 50 to 75 different combinations of scents, Vince Czahor said.
Not surprisingly, especially at this time of year, the Northwoods Evergreen and Spiced Cranberry are most popular, he said, adding that the latter is his favorite. But they’ve also had some unexpected hits with customers, such as Bacon, Campfire Smoke and Beer.
As the business’s signature, each candle has a small glass heart — the colors will vary — hidden inside that is revealed as it melts down.
“My wife said, ‘You know what, we’re pouring our hearts into these, so let’s put a heart in it,” Vince Czahor said.
Most of their candles cost no more than $20. They also offer packets of soy wax melts — pieces that can be placed in a warmer to release their aroma, with no wick or flame required.
In a normal holiday season, they’d do a host of craft shows to offer their candles and wax. They’d assemble perhaps 200 to 400 unique candles to meet demand, Vince Czahor said.
This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve only been able to do three shows, including this past weekend in Peshtigo, Wis.
But the reduced number of shows seems to have sparked more sales, Vince Czahor said, as customers had fewer opportunities to connect with vendors. They do little shipping — the price of the product versus the weight makes that impractical — but will arrange to meet people if possible who want a Hearts in Wax candle.
While they had been stocked at a local gift shop until it closed, for now the shows and their Hearts in Wax Facebook page are the main ways to interact with customers, he said. They plan to be at Pine Mountain Resort on Dec. 12 and the K.I. Convention Center in Green Bay, Wis., on Dec. 13.
While pumping up their sons’ college funds does provide some incentive, sales have never been the driving force behind Hearts in Wax, he said.
“Our main reason for doing the candles,” Vince Czahor said, “was something relaxing to do on weekends together.”