Pungo Candle Company, a part-time business making candles in the county

Laurie Roland founded Pungo Candle Company, and she makes candles and melts that have been sold at local craft shows, online and at farm stands over the past year.  [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]

BACK BAY — Laurie Roland adores scented candles, and now she’s found a way to channel that into a part-time business.

Roland, owner of Pungo Candle Company, fell in love with Yankee Candles several years ago when a friend introduced her to them. Then, in July 2017, she was struck with personal tragedy when her brother, Gradey Roland, died.

That prompted Roland, who works as Canteen CareMart Manager for the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office, to search for a pastime that would be uplifting and comforting.  

“I wanted something positive and fun to do,” she said at her Back Bay home. 

Roland began researching the candle-making process online, and she decided that it sounded doable, particularly since she could order wax and scents, complete with instructions, from manufacturers.

Roland experimented with making candles. By January, 2018, she felt confident enough to begin marketing online through Etsy, a digital marketplace.

It takes 30 or 40 minutes to make a candle by heating wax and letting it cool slightly before adding fragrance and color. The mixture is poured into a container or mold.

The process can have its pitfalls, though. A small shed Roland uses as a workshop contains two boxes of botched candles she calls “the graveyard.”

“I learned by trial and error,” said Roland, who added that she plans to recycle the botched candles into usable ones.

The tricky part, Roland said, is knowing how much scent to use so that the fragrance is perceptible, but not overwhelming.

Roland’s fragrances range from the whimsical to romantic.  “Pungo Nights” has a fragrance like men’s cologne, while others have lavender or other floral or fruit scents. 

“Pungo Strawberries” has a local theme, while others, including Apple Cinnamon, Baby Cakes, and Pumpkin Pancakes, were inspired by food.

Roland’s personal favorites, she said, include Pumpkin Pancake and the traditional, crisp, Fresh Linen.  She offers 50 different scents, and her customers seem to prefer cake candles.  

Roland will also custom make candles if a fragrance is no longer available.  She offers candles in a variety of sizes, ranging from votives to 22 ounce jars, and she makes soy candles as well as candles made from paraffin wax.  The fragrances are also available in wax melts for use in plug-in containers, which she also markets.

In addition to the trial and error process involved in making the candles, the business isn’t lucrative because it involves buying the waxes, scents and containers.  Still, Roland says that she loves making them.

“I like the fact that I’m making people happy,” Roland said. 

Many of her customers learn about her products from seeing them online, while others see them in local businesses.  She markets at Henley’s at Pleasant Ridge as well as at Flip-Flop Farmer during the growing season, and she also occasionally markets at local craft shows.  Prices range from $3.99 for the wax melts to $11.95 for soy candles. 

Bruce Henley, owner of Flip Flop Farmer, began marketing Roland’s products this past fall, and he said that he plans to continue when he re-opens in the spring. “I will probably have some all summer,” Henley said.  “People seem to like them.” 

Lillian Tidwell, a former Kempsville resident who now lives in Williamsburg, is a regular user of Pungo candles. She has tried almost every scent.  

“It’s an excellent product,” said Tidwell, who uses both the melts and the candles but lately seems drawn to the melts.

Visit pungocandle.com or etsy.com/market/pungo_candle or on Facebook via @pungocandle for more information.

© 2019 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

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