Driving down a side street in Wellington one would never think that the little storefront squeezed between a laundromat and a carwash does business all over the country and is about to launch into international trade. But that's exactly what Castle Country Candles has done and as the business expands it reaches wider and wider markets.
Paula Lauffer and her family own and run the business. Husband, Dan and daughter, Beth, along with her parents David and Lena Jones are all a part. It's definitely a family affair and was started back in 1998 when Paula was selling candles for another dealer from over the mountain.
"I became frustrated watching the dealer run the business and decided to give it a shot," she said, explaining that it was about this time when Dan's job was on again and off again. "We wanted a steady income and it took six months to develop the business," she says. "I was driving over the mountain twice a week and thought if she can do it, then I can do it."
Lauffer uses phrases such as "I think I was crazy," "It took a lot of trial and error, it wasn't as easy as it looked," in describing her first few months in the business.
With so many candle companies out there and most gift shops and department stores marketing candles, what makes the little shop in rural Utah unique enough to make the national scene? Lauffer explains that they take the extra step and "its the fragrances that make the difference, along with the double pouring."
The best selling candles "coming home" which is a baked apple fragrance, as well as the Victoria Secret line, scents referred to as love spell and endless love.
"Our candles are highly scented and our niche has definitely become our variety of fragrances," she states.
Although Lauffer began marketing her candles locally through retail outlets in Carbon and Emery counties, with the advance of the internet, she is now selling her products all over United States and Canada and is about to launch her enterprise worldwide.
Although they have 10 or 12 retail outlets in the area they are always looking for more distributors. The web page www.castlecountrycandles.com reaches people all over the world.
Candles make wonderful gifts and that is one of the main reasons they are purchased
"The wonderful thing about candles is the wide demographic appeal," explain Lauffer. "Everybody loves candles and they are as popular with elderly men as they are with young women."
She explains that people still use candles to relax, such as during a warm bubble bath; to create atmosphere, when people add finishing touches to a romantic dinner; or make a room smell better, after someone cooks with garlic.
"Our long burning and double pouring formula make Castle Country Candles even more popular and practical," she explained.
But don't think that formula is going to show up in this feature story. Lauffer follows the industry's tradition of carefully guarding her hard earned secrets.
"It's a very secretive industry," explained Lauffer, who first found this out when she was developing her business plan. "I thought it would be easy, but I ended up having to hire a consultant from the east, one of my suppliers, to help in sorting out the questions."
This business has developed a few little inventions of their own to make things more efficient. These include the notched pop sicle sticks that keep the wicks straight and a copper tubing apparatus used to place the wick in the bottom of the jar.
"There are no resources out there and no one shares their formulas and secrets to success," she explained. "It becomes a one test after another and then we test again. It's a learning process every day."
Watching the pouring process, it becomes apparent there is much more to making candles than one would expect. They begin with hundreds of jars, in a variety of sizes, then add a wick tied to a clip that is glued to the bottom of the jar. The first day they pour the wax, which has already been combined with the fragrance, dye and additives. then the miracles happen as sweet smelling, colorful candles are formed. They repeat the process the next day.
The temperature and humidity has to be just right, which means it can't be too hot nor too cold.
Once the candles are just right to market a label is placed on the jar and the candle is lined up with hundreds of jars, ready to be sold or shipped.
When school starts in the fall it's considered the busy season for the Lauffer family. As far as they are concerned, they are right in the middle of the holiday season now. That means that they pour every other day and prepare for the bazaars, Christmas shows, and holiday trade shows.
"It takes two days to make a candle and we pour 300 pounds at a time," explained Beth, who works side by side with her mother and grandparents.
Paula and Beth will travel as far as St. George, while Lena and David will head to Colorado for trade shows and Christmas open houses this fall, marketing their unique candles. Paula also explained that she is making final arrangements to attend shows in Orlando, Dallas and Atlanta.
This is a family that knows work. Many nights they work around the clock preparing orders and getting shipments off to meet deadlines.
And all of this work, creativity and energy coming from a little shop, of less than 1000 square feet in Wellington.
Castle Country Candles isn't just a business, it's a family's dream; a dream to produce better and better candles, to bring enjoyment and relaxation to more and more people and to provide interesting and lasting gifts.