By Betsy Lopez-Wagner
Special to The Rock River Times
Dave and Judy Bieck are set to open their first Candle Crest store and manufacturing operation Sept. 20. Beloved for their all-natural, environmentally friendly candles — which include the Rockford Candle, a scented treat designed and brought to life to grow community support to fight the city’s negative public image — the couple say this local launch has been years in the making.
The Biecks have been dreaming up scents for their soy-based candles since before their inception in January 2009, working markets, festivals and art fairs in the years after while supplying businesses locally and throughout the nation with their products via wholesales.
Opening at 10 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 20, the 1,600-square-foot shop at 1418 20th St. in Rockford will be home to a candle manufacturing center, order fulfillment center, and a chic new storefront. The local company’s setup in the former Stockholm Inn building will allow a unique engagement opportunity for shoppers — they’ll be able to watch the soy candles as they are poured and prepared from a row of windows. Gone will be the days of creating products from a small home studio, a humble section of space within a garage. The new store will be open three days a week, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays.
“We are ecstatic because it is so much more than what we’ve had,” said Judy Bieck. “We always knew we’d get to this point and are extremely excited we have a place that locals can go to. They’ve been asking for it and asking for it.”
During opening day, two new fall fragrances will be unveiled — Autumn Stroll and Apple Cider. Scrumptiously delightful, both scents were created to celebrate the start of a much-adored season of falling colors and sweet aromas. In addition, the first 20 customers will revel in a surprise bag of free products. There will be tours, promotions and discounts. Attendees will also be eligible for giveaways from area businesses and will automatically receive 20 percent off their entire Candle Crest purchase.
Rockford resident Janet Sullivan, 70, has long hoped the day would come when Candle Crest would outgrow its Rockford City Market booth and studio space. While Candle Crest will continue stocking local shelves and providing products for area businesses, Sullivan says she’ll be a regular at the 20th Street shop.
“This means I can go buy a candle much easier than I have been able to,” Sullivan said. “I think it’s great to have them more accessible. People are familiar with buying their candles at these other stores, and it’s fantastic they’ll still be sold there. For me, I’ll personally wait and buy them directly. I’ve given them as gifts and spread the word of their fantastic candles everywhere I go.”
On a recent visit to Alabama, Sullivan noted a boutique shop carrying the Candle Crest line and said it gave her instant Rockford pride. During Candle Crest’s opening weekend, she’ll be in Alabama, but already has her eye on candles to pick up upon her return.
Lauren Davis, an acclaimed graphic designer and co-owner of Culture Shock, a clothing, records and accessories store, assisted the Biecks in design work to debut the new Candle Crest entity to the region. Davis, one of the original founders of Winnebago Buy Local, a group supporting and inspiring local entrepreneurs and businesses, said everyone wins when one of their own community businesses advances.
“Watching a local business grow in this community, from an initial idea to opening up a manufacturing facility and local storefront, able to ship items made in Rockford all over the USA is what makes groups like Winnebago Buy Local tick,” Davis said. “We want to know that local businesses are helping each other succeed.”
Dave and Judy Bieck were born in Rockford, raised their three children in town, and feel investing locally is the only way to go when a community has helped you as much as this one has. The new store has allowed for the growth of their staff to a full-time position and two part-time positions, in addition to roles family members play on a regular basis.
Members of the grassroots-led Winnebago Buy Local, the Biecks don’t intend to stop growing anytime soon. The storefront is just another way to inch them closer to birthing a much larger vision.
“People can think I am crazy, but I want a big manufacturing plant producing our candles in this city,” Bieck said. “I want to bring manufacturing back to Rockford. Maybe I’m a dreamer, but it can happen. In a dream world, I would like to put a ton of people to work.”
Most notably, Candle Crest is known for its Rockford Candle, a pineapple, bamboo and sage-scented candle sold in 12-ounce jars that was developed by Judy Bieck as a response to Forbes magazine positioning Rockford as No. 3 in its list of “America’s Most Miserable Cities” in 2013. Forbes cited declines in the city’s manufacturing base, high property taxes and local unemployment in the ranking. Candle Crest has selected a not-for-profit organization to be the recipient of funds aimed to boost quality of life in the region each quarter of the year since last fall. Fifty percent of the net profit from each specialty Rockford Candle sold since the project’s inception has benefited a local organization from the Rock River Valley Pantry to current recipient Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary, a pet rescue facility. The Biecks estimate donations have totaled more than $5,000 since the start.
Candle Crest produces clean-burning soy candles with long-lasting burn times and rich fragrances. The soy candles are individually hand-poured using soy wax from soybean grown in the United States. The products feature lead-free wicks and are a healthier alternative to paraffin wax, providing a cleaner burn for you, your family and your pets.
From the Sept. 17-23, 2014, issue