TRUCKEE - Tahoe Candle owner Tracy Heinrich is burning the wick at both ends as her growing business recently set up shop in a West River Street location.
What started out as a candle-making business in the garage of her Carnelian Bay home has in the past four years grown to become a bustling wholesale candle business that has increasing clientele in both Northern Nevada and California.
Heinrich, who has lived in Tahoe since age two, learned the art of candle-making more as a passionate hobby and a way to make great gifts than a way to make a living.
"It started as a hobby," Heinrich said. "The year of the El Nino when we had so much snow, I was making candles every night."
In making her candles, Heinrich has always used the highest quality of wax on the market. It burns cleaner and purer than other grades of wax and is denser and can therefore hold more heat and burn longer. All Tahoe Candles burn dripless as a result of using the high grade wax.
There are five grades of candle wax, and the highest grade of wax is the same wax that is used in foods because of its purity. Oily wax, Heinrich explained, is a sign of cheaper wax.
"It's very much a science," she explained. "You can't tell by looking at a candle at a store. But a softer wax cannot hold its heat or form as well as a harder wax."
"We developed a really strong return customer base," she said. "When I first started making the candles, people told me this is the best candle they've ever burned. With candle lovers, good wax is essential and important."
Her candles are made with varying scents she creates on her own and decorated with pressed flowers and leaves that illuminate and glow when the candle is burning, though she said beauty always follows function in her creations. Heinrich often uses pressed flowers from her own garden.
As her wholesale business grew to service more than 40 stores in the Tahoe/Reno area, her candle-making productions became larger. The new studio, used by Heinrich and her partner, Craig Davies, is equipped with a new wax melting system that has the capacity to pour 400 pounds of wax per day and Heinrich and Davies can better keep up with increasing customer demand.
The new store now serves as a base for the wholesale business, but it also offers a retail outlet and showcase for Tahoe Candles. In addition, customers can pour their own candles in the in-store studio.
"It was basically an idea based on customer feedback," Heinrich said. "Customers were asking us how we made them. They were interested in the process. We have a lot of customers that wanted different fragrances and different colors. This is a way they can do that on their own."
Heinrich, 25, who describes her management style as hands-on and friendly, moved into the new store two months ago. Besides her business partner, she has a part-time employee and plans to hire more help in the near future.
"The purpose of this move was to get into a bigger production facility away from our home," she said, adding the retail front is secondary. "Wholesale is primarily what we do."
Tahoe Candles can also be found at many local retail stores in Truckee and around the lake such as Inside Elements.
"Tahoe Candle plans to continue to create new lines of beautiful illuminating and long-burning candles. I hope to grow as a local candle manufacturer and expand into new areas such as weddings, restaurants and resorts as well as candlemaking classes," she said.
Tahoe Candle, located at 1067 West River Street, is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Right: Tahoe Candle owner Tracy Heinrich lights one of her hand-crafted candles. Tahoe Candle's new production studio and wholesale and retail store is located on West River Street. Above: Tahoe Candles come in unique fragrances for everyone, as displayed above. (Photos by Grant Barta)