QUINCY – Melissa Mengel's home smells like Christmas.
When you first walk into her Southwest Quincy apartment, you can't quite tell where the scent is coming from. But then, you see it.
On the dresser sits a lit, 16-ounce Amber and riftwood candle in a rustic white dough bowl. On the coffee table are smaller, 8-ounce candles in glass jars in five different holiday scents. In the kitchen, soy wax is warming to make another batch of her Salt and Branch candles, a brand Mengel started without much more than an idea.
When she first launched Salt and Branch in January 2020, the website was a place to only buy other people's goods. At saltandbranch.com, shoppers could buy from a range of curated, rustic products from other small businesses like throw pillows from Sweet Mint Handmade Goods, blankets from Porter Lane Home and bath salts from Collective Harmony Co.
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It wasn't until earlier this year that she launched her own line of candles, all made by hand in Quincy. It wasn't a seamless process, she said, and she spent time experimenting with different scents, essential oils and waxes before settling on soy wax and oil blends she feels are clean burning and not overwhelming. Through her experimentation, she said she gained the confidence to market a local, quality product she was proud of.
"I've tried a lot of different mediums. I'm not an artist per se, but I've always been creative and loved candles and scents," she said.
Mengel started with just four scents in one size, and has been gradually expanding each season. Her classic line is available all year long, and for the holidays she's added five new scents: Amber and Driftwood, Coastal Pine, Holiday Cheer, Merry and Bright and Cranberry Ginger. The candles also now come in four sizes: a 2-ounce tealight, 5- and 10-ounce jars and a 16-ounce multi-wick.
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"The people who have found us are people who have a similar value set as far as wanting something handmade and something clean burning," she said.
In addition to the making of the candles themselves, Mengel and her boyfriend design the labels, keep up with wholesale orders, run the website and ship everything from their living room.
"Obviously, the creating is a huge component but I enjoy the process of making the candles, designing the labels, doing the product photography, all of it, really," she said. "The best part of this journey has been meeting other makers and connecting with people who want to support the local movement."
Candle-making is a far cry from Mengel's day job as a mental health counselor, but she says the variety is what keeps it fun.
"It's very different. This is a fun thing for me that still allows me to experiment and be creative," she said.
Salt and Branch candles are available at saltandbranch.com, Yup Sup in Marshfield, Glow Beauty Boutique in Braintree and Ocean Dreams Market in Sherborn. They range in price from $10 to $40, depending on size and scent.
Uniquely Local is a series of stories by Mary Whitfill highlighting the South Shore’s farmers, bakers and makers. Have a story idea? Reach Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more from the Uniquely Local series here.
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This article originally appeared on The Patriot Ledger: Uniquely Local: Quincy woman's Salt and Branch candle company is a hit