Rachel Monrad, owner of Old Oak Market, makes handcrafted soy wood wick candles that burn 90 hours, and they’re all hand poured and custom blended. Photo courtesy of Rachel Monrad

Candle Careers

Local makers create distinctive products and gifts

By Michelle Boudin

’Tis the season to bundle up and get cozy, and there is something about the flicker of candlelight that can instantly transform a room and a mood. Whether it’s creating a relaxed vibe, illuminating a holiday meal or making sure your house smells great, a candle can create just the right ambiance and make an easy holiday gift.

You might be surprised to learn that Charlotte is home to several candle-makers selling handmade luminaries right here in our area, and each offers a unique twist.

With an interest in chemistry, Latoya Harris experiments with oils and often sells her candles at Markets at 11 in Ballantyne's Backyard. Photo courtesy of Latoya Harris

Momma Made Scents

Latoya Harris spent five years working for the Ballantyne location of the post office until last February, when she says she was tired of working two jobs and wanted a better life for herself and her six-year-old twins. She decided to focus full-time on her candle-making business. She got started last year after experimenting with some oils. Initially a pre-med major in college, Harris remembered an oil that she loved from years ago but could never replicate the scent. So, she set about creating it herself.

“Chemistry in college was one of my things, so I got out my old beakers and tools from back in the day and started experimenting.”

She came up with a soy candle that, after it burns, can be used as body lotion, and she grew her product line from there.

“I wanted to do something different so they would stand out. The candles are made with mango butter, avocado oil and a coconut soy wax. …When it melts, it becomes an oil you can pour on your body as a massage oil. When it softens, you can use it as a lotion.