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Creative spirit lights way for partners who make candles

Dan Meier was leafing through the newspaper one morning back in March when he noticed a business for sale that made him take a second look.

As an inventor and entrepreneur, he was intrigued by the ad for a small candlemaking operation.

"I read the paper from cover to cover every day," Meier said. "I wasn't really looking to buy a business. I was just looking."

The elderly couple who owned the business ran the ad for just one day. Ten days later, Meier and his partner, Pat Hecker, became the new owners.

"I thought, we'll buy it and if we like doing it, we'll keep it," Meier said. "If not, we'll sell it."

Hecker, who took over the candlemaking and design aspect of the business, couldn't be happier.

"I studied design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City but got sidetracked and worked in legal services and then hospital administration for many years," she said. "God gave me a talent, now I'm using it."

The mainly wholesale business sells to tourist shops locally and around the country.

Each candle is individually made. A vat of wax in seven colors _ black, white, peach, yellow, pink, blue, teal _ is constantly cooking. The wax comes in big white blocks. "We buy a couple thousand pounds at a time," Meier said.

Fragrances _ licorice, lemon, pomegranate, sandalwood, Shalimar, rose, pina colada, are added to the wax in varying strengths, depending on the size and style of the candle.

They use real shells from Florida, Texas and around the world, but also imitation shells that look like the real thing.

Retail prices for candles range from $2 for a small candle to $50 for an ornately decorated candle embedded with an announcement for a wedding, bar mitzvah or birth.

Wholesale clients include many coastal tourist shops around the country.

"I average 10 to 15 orders a week and make from 600 to 800 candles a week," Hecker said. "The work is very low key and not stressful. I like to be creating and moving around."

Based on previous orders, "during the holidays, we'll hire some part-time workers to help make from 7,000 to 10,000 luminary candles a week for services and programs at local churches, cemeteries and mobile home parks," Meier said.

Meier bought the business for $35,000 from Bill and Lavonne Goodman. They had owned and operated the business for 26 years, Meier said. Now in their 80s, they were ready to retire. "But they still like to come by and visit and see how things are going," he said.

The 55-year-old Florida native said he invested an additional $25,000 to upgrade the equipment and move the business across town to a larger space.

The 2,500-square-foot space includes a working area for Meier's inventions. He's on the board of directors of the Tampa Bay Inventors Council and some of his newest inventions have been selected to be displayed at the Electronic Retailing Association trade show this week in Las Vegas.

Beachcomber Creations has an online store at www.beachcombercandles.com. Next month, the business will be open to walk-in retail customers.

LARGO

BUSINESS

Beachcomber Creations

8233 Ulmerton Road, Largo

A candle manufacturing business specializing in theme candles that incorporate shells, figurines, sand and flowers. Novelty and special occasion candles include weddings, anniversaries, bar mitzvahs and birth announcements, as well as beach scenes with animals and shells. The business is mainly wholesale, but sells online and is opening a retail shop next month.

Operated by owners Pat Hecker and Dan Meier.

"This business lets me be creative. I come up with ideas and, if they're good, they sell." Business co-owner Pat Hecker.

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