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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Making candles and memories

I consider myself to be a bit of a do-it-yourself (DIY) enthusiast. I have always loved scrapbooking, and for the last four years, my college room has been decorated with paintings and collages I have made.

However, one DIY activity that I never got around to was candle-making. So, on a Thursday evening in mid-October, I convinced my mom to head with me to Cork & Candles in King of Prussia to try it out.

Cork & Candles has two locations, one in King of Prussia and one in Center City, both of which are a reasonable commute from St. Joe’s two campuses. The establishment offers a few different candle-making experiences, including their popular custom Candle Bar experience and seasonal candle-making sessions, which can be booked through their website.

I decided to go with the 90-minute Candle Bar experience, which caters to groups of anywhere from one to 15 people (or more if booking a private party). It allows customers to blend custom scents and pour two candles.

In the 1960s, co-owner Dave Straub learned the arts of painting, woodworking and candle making from his father, Ken Straub. After Ken Straub died, Dave Straub continued his legacy of artmaking and named his son, Kenny, after his late father. Kenny and Dave Straub opened Cork & Candles in March 2022.

As a new business emerging from the pandemic, they came up with the company’s tagline, “where friends gather.”

“By coming in and candle-making, you’re working with your hands,” Kenny Straub said. “You have 90 minutes of quality time with people that matter most…it’s something that doesn’t feel that it’s going out of fashion anytime soon, quality time with people that matter.”

Walking into Cork & Candles, I immediately was greeted with a warm and welcoming rustic ambiance of fall decor and the smells of autumn. Exploring the space and various candles on display, I couldn’t wait to get started. Some of the candles were crafted to look like a pie, a fruity drink or even a bowl of cereal.

My mom and I had a great time together testing various scent combinations from the extensive “scent library” and getting each others’ opinions on which to use. Our chandler (a fancy word for candle-maker), Katie Kuerschner, was helpful and patient. She allowed us to take our time, ask countless questions and engage in animated discussions about our scent choices and candle appearances.

While Kuerschner said “helping people choose their scents” is her favorite part of the job, she said it’s also the hardest part for customers.

I see where she’s coming from. My mom and I smelled every single scent in the “scent library” of over 55 aromas, and it was hard to make a final decision. I finally decided on two different combinations, which I named “Bourbon Cookie” and “Apple Woods.” The first combined the scents of “Vanilla Bourbon” and “Warm Snickerdoodle,” which gave off a warm and comforting scent. The second was made of “Apple Cider” and “Sage & Timber” scents, which embodied my favorite smells of autumn and the outdoors.

Candle-making truly is a blend of science and art, which is something that I didn’t consider at first.

Straub, who has a background in finance, science and mathematics, said he enjoys candle-making as a creative outlet. He said candle-making is more accessible than woodworking or painting because it is something anyone can do and love, regardless of their level of artistic talent.

“Scent is so personal,” Straub said. “The beautiful thing about it is you get to create something with your hands, you’re leaving with something that you’ve made, but you’re also leaving with something that you can give as a gift to someone, or that you can use and enjoy.”

Straub said he loves how happy candle-making makes people.

“No one has to make candles, and so we find that people usually show up with a smile and leave with a smile, and we get to have fun with them all the way in between,” Straub said.

That was the experience for Kasey Abell ’25, who visited Cork & Candles with her mom over Fall Break. She made one candle that mixed scents of “Autumn Leaves” and “Barnwood” and another one that was a mix of “Toasted Marshmallow” with “Banana Nut Bread.” Next time, she said she wants to take more people to experience candle-making with her.

“It would be a really fun group or team-building activity,” Abell said. “It’s a fun activity where you can talk and hang out without having to focus too hard.”

Both Cork & Candles locations are BYOB, so if you’re 21 or older you can bring your own wine, champagne or beer. They also offer a selection of non-alcoholic drinks for purchase. The King of Prussia location offers flatbreads and charcuterie as well — though they are not cheap. My mom and I paid $35 for a charcuterie, which we ate while our candles were cooling.

Candle-making is also expensive, especially for college students. I struggled to find willing college friends to come with me because of the price. It’s $60 per person for the Candle Bar, which gets you two customized candles. For an extra artistic touch, I paid $5 more to decorate the tops of my candles with gems and flowers.

But, as a treat, my mom and I both thought it was worth it. Sure, I could buy candle making supplies and do it myself, but this way, we got a chance to do it together.

Natalia Pereira ’24 and her mother making candles at Cork & Candles. PHOTO COURTESY OF NATALIA PEREIRA ’24

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