CRYSTAL SPRINGS — Not that many months ago, Pete Stone packed up some candles he and his wife, Melanie, had made in their garage, and drove down to Hazelhurst to a retailer just to see what she thought of their creation. The reaction was extremely positive, which was a pleasant surprise. But then the lady asked a question for which Pete was totally unprepared.
“She asked me how much I wanted for them,” Pete said with a smile. “I said, “Heck, I don’t know. I don’t even know what they cost us.’”
That first experience was the harbinger of things to come. From just a simple idea of finding something fun the Stones could share, their candle line, called Flick My Wick, is now on the shelves of about 30 retailers in Mississippi and Louisiana, with orders pending from as far away as Georgia and Virginia.
“Every time we show our candles, the response has always been overwhelmingly enthusiastic,” Pete said. “Some stores may just buy part of the line, maybe not wanting to carry a certain shape or design, but everybody likes our candles. It has just been incredible.”
Even the Stones argue which first couched the idea of candle-making, each giving the other credit. But they agree that neither saw it as a potential money-making proposition, rather as an outlet the couple could work on together. So, only about a year ago the two started experimenting.
The couple spent many months on research via the Internet and contacting other candle-makers, then more time experimenting with the process.
“We had to learn from trial and error, from the ground up,” Pete said. “We ordered about 20 pounds of paraffin and started melting in a regular double boiler. We made some that burned for awhile then just went out, others that just fell apart. It was frustrating at times.”
They contacted a candle-maker in California for suggestions. They tried a recipe he said was a big seller, but they never got it to work. However, using his basic map they did come up with a process that produced a quality, unique candle. Pete describes it as hard, slow-burning and smoke-free, with a marbleized look.
After the Hazelhurst “test market,” they then ordered about 600 pounds of paraffin, which at that time lasted about two or three months, molds, dyes, fragrant oils and a real melter, and set about producing their candles. Strictly by word of mouth, their customer base began to mushroom.
Today the Stones are going through 600 pounds of paraffin a week, using nine melters. Flick My Wick offers nine different molds in nine different colors, which are varied as the seasons change, with a wide range of fragrances.
And the beat goes on. Recently Pete made a trip back to his home of Roanoke, Va. A retailer there with nine stores was taken by the Flick My Wick products.
“She asked if I had a brochure, which we don’t have,” Pete said. “All I had was a picture. But she still was interested. So, we’re sending her a candle she can hold in her hand, and we’re expecting a big order from her. I’ve been in a lot of businesses, but I’ve never seen a response like we have gotten.”
Flick My Wick had its official unveiling earlier this month at the Mississippi Market, a tradeshow for Mississippi-made products. Once again the response was overwhelmingly positive, and the Stones sold products to a number of new retailers.
Pete gave a lion’s share of the credit for the success to Melanie, a Mississippi native who also writes music, knits and has other creative outlets. And he also said that their research and development has been key. He said to his knowledge nobody else is making candles quite like theirs.
“Every candle is unique and hand-crafted,” Pete said. “There’s no assembly line like some other manufacturers use. Each candle is different from the one before. We never have worried much about competition. We simply use the best of everything, make sure it’s right, and do our own thing.”
Melanie has just accepted a teaching position at Ole Miss. Thus, the business will soon be moving to their new home in Water Valley, which has a large barn-like structure behind it that will serve as the new studio. Pete said they have planned the layout carefully, and the operation should be much more efficient.
How big Flick My Wick can grow is still being defined. Pete said one concern he has is that if he grows to the point where he has to hire help, there is the possibility that the Stones’ “secret recipe” could leak to other competitors. Still, the couple is exploring other marketing options, especially the Internet.
“I think we can be as big as we want to be,” Pete said. “Candles are really popular right now, and, once again, everywhere we show the candles people get excited about them. The Mississippi Market was a catapult for us. We simply need to decide how far we want to go with it.”
Flick My Wick’s new address in Water Valley is 335 Beacham Street. The company can be reached at (662) 473-3309.
Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at firstname.lastname@example.org.