The Afton Candle Company has grown from family hobby to thriving business.
Todd Nelson was laid up recovering from shoulder surgery when he decided it would be fun to play around with a bottle cutting kit that lets you turn beer bottles into candle holders. The glass cutting part of the kit turned out to be really difficult, and not much fun, but the candle making kit that came with it … well, that’s where the story really begins.
Pretty soon the whole family was making candles, and the Afton Candle Company of Lakeland Minn. was born. The company focused on making all-natural, soy-based candles and was creating some great smelling ones.
“While the scents were great,” Todd says. “We needed an original idea to set us apart from everyone else.”
That’s when his wife and co-founder of the company Tammi Nelson came up with the idea of lake-themed candles. “We love spending time at the family lake home and often purchase things with lake connections,” Tammi says. “This is where the idea came from to make our custom lake candles. Customers could request any lake to have on the jar and any one of five different scents in our Lakeside Memories series.”
Retailers started to carry the Lakeside Memories candles and sales steadily increased. Soon, the Nelsons needed larger wax melting equipment. So Todd started searching online and found a liquidation auction for a candle company in Hillsboro, North Dakota. That company was Spiral Light Candles. The company had just closed its doors. Todd went to North Dakota and met the inventor of the spiral wick, Aaron McWilliams. The Nelsons ended up buying not only the wax melting equipment, but also the Spiral Light Candle name and patent.
Spiral Light Candles are unlike other candles in that the wick is not in the center of the candle, but in the wall of the candle. It burns down and around, not straight down. There are a few YouTube videos you can watch—just search for spiral light candle—that demonstrate not only the spiral wick burning, but also show the second wick in the base that allows you to relight the candle and burn the last bit in the more traditional way … so nothing goes to waste.
The Nelsons still produce candles under the Afton Candle Company brand—not only Lakeside Memories but several other lines, like customized wedding candles and a line called Rustic Home.
“Rustic Home candles … are in more rustic containers that capture the natural beauty of the St. Croix Valley,” Todd says. “Our customer response to these candles has been great also, and we look forward to being able to expand our [Afton Candle Company] offerings in the future.”
Both Spiral Light and Afton Candles are available at retailers such as La Vie in Woodbury and Good Things in White Bear Lake, as well as at other local retailers and through the website. The Nelsons also have a factory store in Lakeland that’s open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“Driving through the beautiful St. Croix valley never gets old and we feel very fortunate to call Afton our home,” Todd says. “We love the small town feel and living in a rural setting. The people that come into our small shop are not only excited about our candles, but they are also excited for us. It is wonderful to be surrounded by the support of the local communities.”