“Scent is the sense most closely tied to memory,” says Candle Studio 1422 owner Cindy Felts. Poetry, prose, and neuroscience all attest to the truth we intuit whenever a particular smell whisks us back to a moment in the past. Whether we think of scent in literary terms, in the Proustian sense of In Search of Lost Time, or as the process by which a smell makes its way directly to the amygdala and the hippocampus, the regions of the brain related to emotion and memory, it’s a powerful and often underappreciated sense.
“Scent is also very personal,” Cindy says, “because everyone perceives and processes a scent differently.” Candle Studio 1422, a calm oasis tucked in behind La Verona on Sycamore Alley, features a vast array of all-natural soy candles with inspiring names like “Lake Retreat,” “Sea Mist,” “Morning Rain,” and “Hope” as well as candle-pouring workshops for people to create their own custom scent. Candle Studio 1422 has scents to please every “nose palate.” Smells bring different associations for different people, and Cindy loves creating custom scents and helping her customers find or create a scent they love.
The number 1422 in the name of her small business also reflects the intimate connection between scent and memory. Growing up in Baltimore, Cindy spent many joyful hours with her paternal grandparents at their home, number 1422. “1422 is where my happiest memories were made,” she says. These memories are a source of inspiration for her, and particularly as she works to make this entrepreneurial dream—one she’s had since childhood—come true.
For all of her creativity, Cindy is also a self-avowed “Type A” organizer, planner, and researcher. As she balanced the stresses of a corporate job over the years, she pursued many different creative outlets including jewelry, lotion, and soap making and blogging. When she discovered candle making, she found it brought her the most joy.
For Cindy, candle making is the perfect marriage of art and science, and as a curious learner she thrives on the research and all of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into the alchemy of scents and making candles in different sizes and containers. The wax needs to be weighed, the right wick for the candle’s diameter determined, and every fragrance has to be tested in each new container for its scent load. When she’s creating a new product, Cindy observes and documents the results of each experiment until she finds the perfect combinations. She learns something every day, and she loves exploring fresh options and engaging with a vibrant online community of experts.
Fanning the flame of a long-held dream
In 2018, candle making was still a hobby when Cindy decided to leave corporate America. “I’m not a risk taker,” she says. “But there I was, taking a risk—a former compliance manager resigning from my job without a plan.” She laughs. When she turned in her notice, she says, she physically felt the stress melt away. She worked at a few jobs part time and quickly realized she’s not the stay-at-home type.
As she continued to experiment and learn more and more about candles, she reconnected with an inner urge for entrepreneurship. “As a kid, I always knew I wanted to run a business,” she says. “But life grabs you, and you go along and sometimes forget what your dreams were. I didn’t want this to be one of those things I’d regret—that fear held me back.” It was her husband who gave her the nudge to open a retail space, and after some searching she found the space in Kennett Square—the perfect spot for her new business.
It was important for her to be in a walkable town where there are shops and restaurants for her workshop customers to explore during the two-hour wait while their candles set. It’s also “a hop, skip, and a jump” from her home in Landenberg. Perhaps more than anything, though, she chose Kennett Square for its sense of community. “The locals have been great,” she says. “Even in places I’ve lived I haven’t felt the sense of community I do here.” Countless times since she opened in November 2020, local residents have come in with positive and encouraging words, customers have supported her and expanded her network by telling friends and friends of friends about her, and people including a few realtors have posted videos about the shop.
Her twins Alyssa and Aaron, now eleven, love having their mother around more. “I’d felt so much guilt over the years as a working mom,” Cindy says. With her husband working in center city and also being in the Army National Guard, when the children were sick or something else came up, having so little control over her schedule often made her feel she was letting either her family or her job down. The stress of starting her own business—and doing so during a global pandemic—is a different kind of stress, she says. As a person who values her own time and respects other people’s time, Cindy likes having control of her own time. And, as often happens with small businesses, her family has embraced and supported her venture.
While Aaron would rather be building with one of his Lego Technic sets, Alyssa and her dad man the tables for Candle Studio 1422’s pop-up events at Liberty Market. Alyssa is also her mom’s right-hand product tester, marketer, social media adviser, and ambassador. Soon after the shop opened last year, the then-ten-year-old Alyssa explained in a Facebook video how important it is to plan, research, and gather as much information as possible before opening a business. Alyssa can often be seen shopping at her favorite spots around town—including Rainbow Soap Company, the Mushroom Cap, and Mrs. Robinson’s Tea Shop—talking to the nice lady at Marché, and taking art classes at Square Pear Gallery. Cindy smiles as she describes her daughter’s fondness for Kennett Square and says she’s looking forward to having time to explore these places herself. Meanwhile, Alyssa is already negotiating her salary for when she begins working at the candle studio. “I won’t be able to afford her!” Cindy says with a laugh.
The biggest challenge, Cindy says, is her location on Sycamore Alley, a few steps off State Street’s beaten path, down the lane between Work2gether and La Verona. As State Street has filled in with many different and thriving shops and restaurants, new businesses are expanding the downtown footprint and offering both residents and visitors more places to explore—from South Union and South Broad Streets to Birch Street, Cannery Row, and Sycamore Alley.
A fun, safe, and creative activity for all
In candle-pouring sessions at Candle Studio 1422, customers are able to create their perfect scent in a hand-poured candle, name it, and even design their own label. The studio offers candle-pouring workshops for all ages, including summer workshops for kids. The activity is perfect for every kind of group and occasion, Cindy says, including mother-daughter dates, bridal showers, and birthdays. She’s also looking forward to offering little after-work BYOB events for groups of moms and others who are looking for a fun and creative activity to enjoy together. Having just increased her capacity to eight people (still properly spaced in her bright, airy studio), she’s also working on testing new containers for candles so she can enhance the candle-making experience by offering even more products and options. For those who would prefer to take the experience home with them, Cindy also offers a candle-making kit.
“I’ve had such great feedback from workshop participants, both men and women, of all ages,” Cindy says, “It’s been a lot of fun. I think people are more than ready to come back together for conversation with each other, to enjoy socializing in a safe space while being creative and learning something new.”
Cindy’s thoughtful process makes narrowing down over 30 different scents and seemingly infinite combinations fun instead of overwhelming. “Everyone has a clipboard to mark down their five or six favorite scents,” she explains. Then, with scent blotters dipped in the fragrance oils for these top choices, people can start to narrow them down further and see (smell) what happens when they combine them. One “palate-cleansing” tip for fragrances is to smell your own skin, she says. Coffee beans also serve that function.
Naming the scent is an important final step in the creative process. “The name doesn’t have to describe the scent,” she says. “One gentleman created a scent that reminded him of his grandmother’s garden, and he named it ‘Remember Her,’ which is simple but evocative.” Cindy is always discovering new things, she says, as she watches the creativity of her customers blossom.
Creating a unique, private-label candle is a great option for business owners, and it’s a service that Cindy offers. “It’s ideal for shops, salons, boutiques, and realtors,” Cindy says, and she’s happy to talk through the options with anyone interested in learning more. Stefanie Lynn of the Kennett Bookhouse is delighted about their candle collaboration. “We were so excited that Cindy was willing to partner with us to create our ‘signature scent,’” she says. The new Kennett Bookhouse candle should be in the shop soon.
Treasuring the sense of smell
Cindy, whose taste in scents tends towards the floral and natural and away from the spicy and “perfumey,” says she doesn’t like every scent. She’s also very sensitive to scent and can get headaches easily from overpowering scents, so she’s especially mindful of the balance and scent load in her candles.
Cindy particularly appreciates the senses of smell and taste after having lost them both following a head injury from a fall in 1998. Doctors weren’t sure when or whether the nerves would regenerate. For six years, she ate by texture instead of taste, added hot sauce to her food to feel the heat, and missed smelling the flowers. “At some point in 2004,” she says, “I realized I could taste again.” And with her sense of taste, her sense of smell came back as well—which proves the neuroscience research that tells us taste is inextricably related to smell. Whenever she has a cold and momentarily loses these senses, Cindy experiences a flashback and stab of fear. She looks around her beautifully designed, light-filled candle studio and smiles. “I really appreciate the sense of smell, and I never take it for granted.”
Find Candle Studio 1422 at 100 Sycamore Alley (down a few steps between La Verona and Work2gether). In addition to her hand-poured soy candles, Cindy sources home decor, jewelry, clothing, and gifts from other small businesses, many of which are women-owned. Visit Cindy’s website for fun and inspiring content about Candle Studio 1422, including a Candle Aroma Quiz to help you find your perfect scent!
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Photos by Braxton Blomgren