The sweet smell of success: Candle-maker turns hobby into thriving Wilmington business

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In just a year, Sharon Reynolds went from novice candle-maker to new business owner. She and husband Wayne opened White Lake Wicks in the Cotton Exchange in March. Photos by Hilary Snow.
In just a year, Sharon Reynolds went from novice candle-maker to new business owner. She and husband Wayne opened White Lake Wicks in the Cotton Exchange in March. Photos by Hilary Snow.

WILMINGTON — Sharon Reynolds’ immersion in the pleasantly perfumed world of candle-making started out innocently enough.

Turning to the hobby last year as a way to relieve stress, she quickly became addicted to the craft. And, it turned, out she wasn’t the only one.

Bombarded by requests from friends–and friends of friends–for one of her homemade, chemical-free candles, she finally moved her scented stock into a brick and mortar shop within the Cotton Exchange, 338 Nutt St.

In March, Sharon and her husband, Wayne, launched White Lake Wicks, so named because the couple makes the hour-long trek from their White Lake home to downtown Wilmington each day.

“We really like Wilmington,” Wayne Reynolds said of their decision to locate their business outside Bladen County. “And downtown seems to be coming back.”

For Sharon, it feels a little more like kismet. While entertaining an out-of-town friend one chilly February morning, she shuffled into the Cotton Exchange for shelter from the biting wind and stumbled upon an empty storefront.

“I told my friend, ‘This would be a great candle store,'” she recalled.

A month later, it was. Starting small with only 40 candles and another 50 scented wax melts, Sharon said her first few weeks in business were bustling, as she rushed to make enough candles to keep shelves stocked.

Sharon and her husband Wayne display their Michigan pride in their new store, named after the town in which they now reside.
Sharon Reynolds and her husband Wayne display their Michigan pride in their new store, named after the town in which they now reside.

Of course, there are worse problems a small entrepreneur could have. And, luckily, Sharon still finds enjoyment in the careful melting and mixing she puts into every scent, of which there are now more than 70 varieties.

The process for her is a cathartic one, having tried her hand at it after her father died in 2015 and she became primary caretaker of her ailing mother.

“Rather than take out any stress on her, I needed to do something to calm myself,” she said. “So, it started out as a stress reliever and turned into an addiction.”

Wayne, too, has found relief, now that he has been able to reclaim his home from the jars of candles that had taken over.

“I had to built a separate room onto the house just to get away from all the smells,” he said, laughing.

All jokes aside, Wayne is an active partner in the business and proudly proclaims his wife’s commitment to quality.

“She told me, ‘If I’m going to do this, I’m going to make the candles my way.’ I’ve seen her throw stuff away that wasn’t perfect by her standards,” he said.

Sharon now makes more than 70 varieties of chemical-free soy candles made with locally sourced ingredients.
Sharon now makes more than 70 varieties of chemical-free soy candles made with locally sourced ingredients.

Sharon’s candles are shaped using North Carolina soy and other locally made ingredients and oils. The all-natural, hand-poured creations are gentle on people suffering from allergies and asthma, Reynolds said, and burn longer than most store-bought candles.

In addition to the homemade products, which run from $5 for melts up to $23 for larger candles, White Lake Wicks also sells plug-in burners and has a mix-and-match section for those wanting to sample aromas.

With a goal to “grow and grow,” the Reynolds said a new line of fall scents would be unveiled in September, with holiday-themed candles soon to follow.

White Lake Wicks is open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. The shop offers a standing 10 percent discount to active military, veterans and first responders. Updates on sales and new products can be found on White Lake Wicks’ Facebook page.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.

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