Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Local Spotlight - Waxman Candles

Waxman Candles, which is located on bustling Massachussetts Street, is a Lawrence original that's been around since the 1970s. Waxman founder, Bob Werts, came from New York City to attend school in Dodge City, and while in college, one of his favorite hobbies was experimenting with candlemaking. After graduating  with a business degree, Bob decided that candlemaking would be his calling. Bob's dad was skeptical upon hearing about his son's idea for making a living, and let him know as much. Bob pressed on, though, and  armed with a tiny candlemaking starter kit, he got to work creating as many types of candles as he could, learning along the way.

I acquired these background tidbits about the store from Jill, an employee at Waxman who was incredibly helpful and willing to answer every question I asked. Jill, who has been at Waxman for 10 years, said that she loves the company and the people she works with. She gave me the rundown on how the store has continually expanded its product offerings over the years, incorporating more scents and types of candles based on customer preferences, while maintaining the same staples that made Waxman a success from its inception.

Waxman is a candle store unlike any others that are currently on the market. For starters, the names and scents of the candles for sale at Waxman immediately distinguishes the company from the boring, tried-and-true fragrances that you'll find almost everywhere else. Honestly, how many more vanilla-, fresh-, berry-, rose-, cookie-something scents does anyone in America need? Answer: None. So it was refreshing to see tins emblazoned with titles such as, 'Love Potion No. 9', 'Nirvana', 'Aphrodisiac', 'Asia', 'Tea Party' and 'Sexy'. Infinitely appealing these names are because they pique onlookers' curiosity; what exactly does sexy smell like? Then you unable to resist picking up the candle and taking a whiff. For the record, I would describe the smell of the Sexy candle akin to what a freshly showered man wearing a well-tailored suit would smell like. This description is at least somewhat legit, as three other people sniffed it and this is the image we agreed that it matched. But you should go and smell Sexy just to see what image pops up in your mind.

Near the front door to Waxman is a tall shelf that holds can candles, which Jill said were incredibly concentrated. When you burn the can candle scent, you'll smell it immediately, and it will last. When I asked her what the secret was to making these candles more potent than any other on the market, she said that Waxman infuses the wax with the scent while it is still a liquid, whereas many other candle companies - including large, well-known ones - actually don't infuse the wax with a scent at all, and instead spray their scents onto odorless candles, which is why the fragrances in those candles can't be detected if you walk just a few feet from where they are burning. That little tidbit of information blew my mind.

My favorite can candles

In the middle of the room are dozens of individual, small votives stacked in bins at the center of the room that contain the most popular Waxman scents. Each votive retails for $1.75, or can be purchased as a set of 12 for $16.

Burning wood aka Bonfire is one of my favorite scents

And, being that that Waxman is located in Lawrence, there is a lot of pride for the city, as can be seen in the Lawrence-scented can candle and the faux cobblestone bricks that mime those still found on downtown and neighborhood streets. There are also plenty of candles that pay homage to The University of Kansas, from the tiny Jayhawk molds to the Campanile.

Then there are layer columns, in which two-to-five scents are stacked upon each other, with all of the scents mingling together once the candle is lit. The columns offered are: Kitchen, Wet, 5th Avenue, Deep Forest, Feng Shui, Summer Sunshine and Kansas.

Should your want a little bit of entertainment to go along with your richly scented candle, perhaps you should buy one of the candle molds that Waxman offers. From Hershey's Kisses to olives to treasure pyramids to cupcakes, there was a serious variety of everyday objects that one could pick from. Jill said that ideas for molded candles are thought up by the staff, and that all molds are created at Waxman. I can't be completely certain, but I'm pretty sure that she said that customers can commission custom molds. I think I might commission a macaron-shaped candle on my next visit.

The scented oils had perhaps the largest selection of scents to pick from, with my favorites being Hazelnut, which smelled like a freshly brewed cup of robust coffee, Nillaberry, which smelled like a mixture of vanilla, gummy worms and jelly beans, Roasted Chestnut, which smelled like coffee and chestnuts, Cinnamon, which smelled like Red Hots candy, Bayberry, which smelled like I was standing on the edge of a lake with a breeze of holly berries and Buff, which smelled like the air after a spring rain.

Jade, another Waxman employee, let me check out the back of the store where the candles are actually made. He said that since the candles are made on a smaller scale than other candle companies, Waxman makes their own equipment. He walked me through the process of creating candles from start to finish, and showed the latest batch that had just been formed.

If you want authentic, ethically made candles with scents that you literally will never be able to find anywhere else, stop by Waxman. A candle is the perfect gift for any occasion, and is a perfect buy just to treat yourself, and with the variety of options offered at Waxman, there isn't a reason not to stop by. And with the staff that is as friendly and willing to answer questions as Jill and Jade, it's no wonder the shop has been thriving for so many years.

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