Small-business owners face many challenges when first opening their doors, but Tifani Hedrick and Quentin Bowden had a new one: a global health pandemic.
Auburn Candle Co. in downtown Auburn was open for nearly one week in March before it was forced to close due to COVID-19.
“It was definitely stressful knowing all the money we put into everything and then kind of having to wonder will we even be able to open back up after,” Hedrick said. “We didn’t know if we’d be making any money to be able to keep up even with the rent.”
Hedrick and Bowden quickly pivoted their business model to keep it afloat.
“We kind of, just, were like, “Alright we have to online sales,” Hedrick said. “Quentin put together a website, and then we just ran like Facebook ads to try to generate some sort of attention to the business and get some sort of sales.”
Thankfully, the pair got enough online business to get through and they were able to open their doors once again May 15.
“It was definitely kind of a relief to know that there were people out there willing to support the business,” Hedrick said.
Auburn Candle Co.
Auburn Candle Co. is an experiential retail business that allows customers to create their own candles or other home fragrances.
“We have 85 different fragrances,” Bowden said. “You can come in, take a sniff around, choose your favorite scents and then create your own candle or room spray or other home fragrance product.”
The couple moved to Auburn from Cincinnati and saw an opportunity to pursue something different.
“I said, ‘Hey, you know we’re moving, we have a new opportunity, a new chance to do something that we’ve maybe wanted to do for a little bit, so we thought hey why don’t we go ahead and open a candle store,’” Bowden explained.
The business is walk-in and reservation-free. Customers are walked through the process and then brought to the scent room to smell the 85 scents available. Customers can then write down their favorite scents on a form for later.
“Some people write 30, some people write two — just kind of up to the customer,” Hedrick said.
Customers then get to pick out their own candle jar or other home fragrance product that they want to make before meeting with a scent stylist.
“We have one of our scent stylists help the customer navigate which scents will mix well together and which ones won’t mix well together,” Hedrick said. “Once they’ve narrowed it down … we actually give the customer the oils and they get to mix themselves so they’re determining their perfect scent.”
Once customers are done mixing their scent, Auburn Candle Co. staff will pour the wax in the jar for them. Customers then will pour their oil in the wax, mix it and create a custom label for it.
The whole process takes about 2 hours to 2½ hours.
“It’s like a perfect date thing,” Bowden said. “You come in, make your candle, you can go grab a drink, have dinner, kind of mosey about in the area, and then towards the end of your night, come pick up your wares.”
Hedrick said that so far, customer feedback has been great.
“Everybody’s very excited to have something to do,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of younger kids, and parents are bringing them in and saying it’s so nice to have something to do.”
The business is spacing out groups that come into the store to make sure they are staying 6 feet apart. It is also spraying all equipment, stools and countertops with a sanitizing bleach spray after each customer leaves.
“We have a hand-washing station in the back as well as hand sanitizer out for anyone to use,” Hedrick explained. “After people have gone into the scent room, we’re wiping down the candles after they’ve been touched.”
Groups bigger than six are asked to call ahead of time to let the staff know to make sure social distancing standards can be maintained.
Auburn Candle Co. is also keeping its online business for those who do not feel comfortable coming into the business.
“They can also make all the same scents and mix them and have their own custom scent done online as well,” Bowden said.
Auburn Candle Co. is located at 166 N. Gay St., Suite 1, in downtown Auburn. It is open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, noon to 6 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Visit auburncandle.com for pricing and more information.