Former teacher Lori Woods has burning love for candlemaking

08/01/2014 7:00 AM

08/02/2014 8:06 PM

Twelve years ago, a visit to Marsha Martin’s 5B & Co. Candlemakers in Weston inspired Lori Woods to open a Kansas City franchise. In her Brookside storefront location, the 39-year-old mother of two pours and sells candles daily and also offers a variety of home decor and gift items.

How did you get into this business?

I was teaching elementary school in Blue Valley, but I also had an entrepreneurial spirit. In fall of 2002, I went into the Weston 5B & Co. shop and was enamored with Marsha Martin and her scents, and I asked her if she would be willing to put one in Brookside. I went home and burned the candles and did research. In January, I was supposed to head back to school and called Marsha to follow up. I’d go up on weekends and she mentored and taught me. In July 2003, I opened at this location.

Tell me about your candles.

Our votives are soy and paraffin, and our container candles are high in soy. It’s Marsha’s recipe. We’re known for our scents. We buy from 20 different oil vendors, and we’re selective about the oil we choose. Most companies are looking at the bottom line; we go for the most authentic. It’s like making cookies. You have to find a good recipe.

What are the virtues of soy?

Everybody wants soy. Paraffin is a petroleum-based product; soy is plant-based and using it supports the farm community. Soy burns cleaner than paraffin, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with paraffin.

Soy is soft, it’s hard to get a soy votive that will pop out of the mold, so we add paraffin to harden the wax, and it also helps with scent delivery. My goal is to have the cleanest burning candle. There are many factors that go into it: the wax, the wick, the oil. You want it as natural as you can. We’ve done a lot of tampering with wicks, trying to get our candles perfect burning. We don’t use the same wick with every scent. You don’t want wax sticking to the side of the jar.

Are there any tricks with candles?

One-quarter inch is the length you want the wick. If it’s longer, the flame will be too big. And you want it straight, not “flowered” — you don’t want a little ball at the top. That makes for more smoke and soot and shortens the life of the candle. If you get a ball, extinguish the candle, trim the wick and relight it. We sell wick-trimming scissors that are designed to catch the burnt clipping.

And before you light your votive, put a few drops of water in the bottom of the container and it won’t let the wick tab stick to the bottom. Not too much water; you don’t want the wick to absorb it.

Tell me about your scents.

We have more than 175 scents; at a given time we’ll have 140 scents out. We rotate them seasonally.

We have a lot of names unique to us: “Jamaica Me Happy,” “Bottom of Mom’s Purse.” Marsha found an oil and it instantly took her back to the mints in the bottom of her mom’s purse, so she tinkered with that to create a scent.

What scents have you designed?

“No Worries” is one. I modeled it after a scent I enjoyed — a red currant, quince blend — and I mixed in gooseberry and raspberry. It’s clean with a little sweetness. Scent is that whole mood; I was going for calming. I could light my candle and everything was better even if my house was a mess.

What are your most popular scents?

We do well with “No Worries” and “Brookside Bungalow,” a water/mint scent. Also “Sunsmooched,” which resembles orange vanilla, and “Clean Undies,” a linen scent. Scent is personal. Everyone likes something different.

Describe the candlemaking process.

We pour 400 votives a day and during busy times, double that. In the back of the shop I have two big vats of hot wax that I use to fill smaller metal pots set on burners to keep warm. The oils are premixed, and I add them to the pots along with coloring, then pour the mixture into a mold with a pre-centered wick. When the candles harden, I pop them out and put them in the shop. The votives burn for 15 to 18 hours.

You’ve come up with some creative packaging with these decorative tubes.

Marsha came up with the gift tube idea for the votives; I came up with the themes — assortments for weddings, baby, birthdays, new home, teacher’s pet and holidays. A tube of six votives costs $22. Tealights are $1.50; votives are $2.95. If you buy 10, you get two free.

What’s new?

I’ve started doing heirloom candles by filling tins and jars and carnival glass I pick up at flea markets and estate sales. You can also bring in your own heirloom or pick a container from here. I will fill it with your choice of scent for $2 per ounce.

To reach Alice Thorson, call 816-234-4783 or send email to athorson@kcstar.com.

Lori Woods’ 5B & Co. Candlemakers is at 6231 Brookside Plaza. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. For more information, 816-361-6393 or www.5bandco.com.

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