DUNEDIN — When it comes to candles, good fragrance is in the nose of the beholders — whether they're getting a whiff of an orange-blossom candle or a whiskey candle.
Andrew Kovanis can attest to that.
In September, the Dunedin native opened the Dunedin Candle Co. at 1299 Bayshore Blvd., where he makes jar candles that come in more than 50 scents, from the custom-made chocolate peanut butter to orange blossom.
The avid hiker was on a trek in the desert in New Mexico in 2019 during what's known as a super bloom when he had an idea that would lead to a business venture.
"I got to see all the desert flowers. I decided I was going to make a cactus candle to give to my friends, my hiking buddies. I enjoyed the process to much I decided I'd make a go at it and started a business," Kovanis said.
Voila — the Dunedin Candle Co. was born.
Candles are excellent way to create a vibe, he said.
"You light a candle and it has a specific aroma. You walk in the room, you smell it and you go, ‘Ahhhhh.’ It's pleasant, it's relaxing, cleansing. They make great gifts for people," Kovanis said.
The Candle Co. also handles custom requests. The most outlandish candle he has made was a tomato leaf, which was requested by a customer.
"If you were to plant a tomato, the smell on your hands is what the candle smells like," he said.
"We have a whiskey candle at the moment," Kovanis said. "That's kind of a conversation candle. A customer requested a chocolate dragon candle."
Kovanis is busy, to say the least, going on the road to six shows a week to sell his products. His sales representatives attend about four other events.
"You can find us at the Dunedin Farmers Market, the Royal Palm Market in St. Pete, all the way up to Brooksville, around Orlando, Daytona Beach," Kovanis said.
He also provides space to vendor friends, who were struggling during the pandemic to find events to sell their wares.
"We sell things on consignment and give an opportunity to a lot of crafty people who otherwise wouldn't have an outlet for their creations and stuff," he said.
Vendors have handmade soap lotions, hand-made dog treats, artwork and jewelry.
"Things are always coming and going," he said. "We ourselves are making new stuff all the time. Now we are making jar candles. We are going to get into making wax melts and pillar candles."
A lot of tourists buy his products, such as the Dunedin orange blossom candle, he said.
"They take it back home with them. It's kind of a neat way to kind of relive their memories. Smells are associated with memories. For me, like I smell a gardenia candle, it reminds me of my grandmother. At her house she had a big gardenia bush," he said. "It takes me right back to when I was 6," Kovanis said.
To formulate the recipe for candles requires about 30 to 40 attempts. It's all about taking notes and changing variables, such as how many grams of this fragrance, how many grams of that fragrance.
"Basically trial and error. Test burn it, hit or miss," he said.
The label-making work is the most difficult part of producing the candles, which are sold for $16 each in the shop.
Of course, seasonal products are offered. He and his employees are working on Valentine’s Day candles.
The Candle Co. is community friendly, Kovanis said.
"We want to give an opportunity for people who make something a place to sell it," he said. "Some make the wreaths. They are not going to open up a store just to sell their wreaths," he said
Kovanis gets to mix business with pleasure, being on the road a lot. He's traveled all over the country.
"Crossed off state number 44. I have a few more to go," he said.
"During the shutdown, I went on a road trip. First I hiked across all of Alabama on the Pinhoti Trail and rented a car and drove out west" to Zion National Park, Yellowstone National Park and other areas.
The pandemic has presented challenges for the business, which is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
"Getting supplies has been an absolute nightmare. There is a glass jar shortage. So it's impossible to find a reliable source for jars. Even the wicks and lids and anything I need to make a candle has been an absolute nightmare to get," he said.
Nevertheless, Kovanis is upbeat and said his shop already has outgrown its space and he could relocate if the right opportunity came along.
"I took a big risk, and things are paying off," he said. "The community has come out and supported us."
Kanvis and his crew can make candles that appeal to all kinds of interests.
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