Wax rhapsodic at New Paltz’s new candle store

Ingrid Heins of Little Light Of Mine Village Candle located at 8 South Chestnut Street in New Paltz. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

The venerable Woodstock candle shop Candlestock — celebrating its 50th anniversary this year — used to have a second outlet on Main Street in New Paltz back in the 1970s, called Candlestock II. It was popular with students and weekenders alike; but somewhere along the line, the satellite store was closed, and this village hasn’t had an emporium devoting itself primarily to candles in the decades since. Does that make sense, in a community known for its hippie culture, hordes of souvenir-hunting visitors from the Big Apple and occasional power outages? Ingrid Heins doesn’t think so. “Everybody buys candles,” she says. “Everybody likes candles.”

Heins, who lives in Wallkill, chose the former site of the Village Cutter, set back behind and just south of Bacchus Billiards, to be the headquarters for her new business: Little Light of Mine Village Candle. The shop officially opened on February 9, with hours from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, expected to expand when the winter weather leaves us. On a nice weekend, you’ll find vats of beeswax melting over heaters behind the front counter, with wicks weighted and ready for dipping and the proprietor eager to guide you through a demonstration of how to make taper candles by hand. “I always have the pots on,” she says.

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The refurbished shop interior bears little resemblance to its 35-year history as a hair salon. New flooring mimics the woodgrain of a traditional country store, and that atmosphere is liberally reinforced by the antique furnishings that display Little Light of Mine’s wares. Particularly striking is a cabinet in the rear with shelving above and dozens of tiny drawers below, their wooden faces in wildly varying sizes and colors of stain. The piece was previously used in a hardware store, and Heins says that it took some hard bargaining to acquire it for her shop.

“A lot of the furniture in here was my mother’s. She had pancreatic cancer and passed away in August. It feels like she’s here,” says Heins. “My parents were from Germany. My Mom was a chef who opened a restaurant in Washingtonville, Ye Olde Village Inn.” Thus Ingrid and her four siblings grew up learning the food service business, and she later ran a restaurant in Pine Bush for five years called Restaurant Repast.

Heins now brings that experience to her newest passion: cooking up soy-based candles. “Smell me! Open the jars,” invites a sign above the display of her specialty items. Each jarred candle is dusted with a topping that matches its scent theme: tiny fragments of food, herbs and spices, dried flowers or foraged natural items — even small stones to go with the candle “flavor” that she calls Hiking the Ridge, with a sprinkling of parsley to evoke mountain greenery. Other selections include Amaretto, Honey Almond Oatmeal, Thin Mints, Guardian Angel, Creamsicle, April Showers, Apple Pie, Chai Tea, Cup of Joe, Lavender Field, Spring Lilac, Enchanted Island and Maine’s Ocean Breezes.

That last scent is a homage to Heins family’s regular summer trips to the Downeast shore, where Ingrid first encountered the business that inspired her to take up candlemaking: “a candle shop in Kennebunkport that I fell in love with.” She says that, after having spent the last 12 years in corporate jobs, she was ready to try to replicate that favorite childhood haunt, only closer to home. “After my Mom passed, I wanted to do something different — something with a little more meaning, something that would make people happy,” she says. “Making candles was familiar, because it’s like cooking.”

Amassing stock that she has made herself is taking some time. “I started out with a lot of Yankee Candle items,” she admits. But she’s working at increasing more locally sourced products — not only candles, holders and other accessories, but also handmade jewelry, soaps with names like Shawangunk Sunset from Accord-based Heart & Arrow and other giftware items. Her fanciest carved candles come from an artisan in Pennsylvania. Rustic bluebird houses are made by Heins’ husband. Candleholders are available in a bewildering array of materials, from traditional brass and wrought iron to ceramics, turned wood, painted glass and carved-out chunks of agate and Himalayan pink salt. Country-style home décor is also prominently displayed, and Heins says that her corner devoted to Christmas ornaments will be a year-round feature — just as it was in that little candle shop in Maine.

She likes to assemble fancy gift “baskets” with a selection of products in repurposed antique containers, including vintage candy and cookie tins and the coated paper cylinders in which ice cream was sold in the early years of the 20th century. Some are themed for the bath, for housewarmings, for holidays, for romance; the deluxe Happy Anniversary Tin of Love ($72) is a large oval container that includes soaps, bath salts and a variety of different types of candles, some heart- or flower-shaped, some designed to float — all topped off by a chocolate rose.

Perhaps the most eyecatching of all is the large table display of stocking-stuffer-sized tealight candles in whimsical shapes such as flowers and seashells. Just try to walk out of the store without taking home a selection of lifelike tiny wax cacti of differing species. You can even buy a glass terrarium in which to arrange them, like the ones hanging in the front window. It’s easy to see why Ingrid Heins says, “This is my happy place now.”

Little Light of Mine Village Candle is located at 8 South Chestnut Street (Route 208) and boasts that rare and precious downtown New Paltz commodity, off-street parking. It’s open seven days a week, currently from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. To learn more, call (845) 800-1819 or visit www.facebook.com/little-light-of-mine-village-candle.

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