Linda Crandley started making fragrant, hand-dipped candles in her basement years ago as a single mom living in a Philadelphia suburb.
"There's something very relaxing about making and burning them," says Crandley, now 41. "It's a frame of mind. They're romantic and aromatic and calming."
But how she learned to make candles has more to do with finances than folly.
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An unexpected Christmas-season job loss led her to a program through a women's resource center that taught her small-business skills.
She taught herself candle-making by reading about it on the Internet, then began melting wax in her Crock Pot - a technique she still sometimes uses.
"I had always loved candles," she recalls. "When I had a couple of dollars extra to spend on me, I would always treat myself and buy one at Kmart.
A few years ago, Crandley and her new husband, Rich Shamblin, moved to New Port Richey to be closer to her parents, who live in the area.
Shamblin helps run a health care company in Tampa, and the couple live in a 3,400-square-foot house they rent on a canal in the Sea Forest development across U.S. 19 from New Port Richey's hub.
Crandley had spent time off and on for years in New Port Richey, even working for a time as a waiter at Jimmy's, a downtown restaurant that caters to the breakfast and lunch crowd.
In the fall of 2005, after years of making candles for friends and family in her spare time while working in sales for a company that sold corporate safety programs, she decided to open her own candle shop.
She envisioned a homey place where she could sell her all-natural, hand-dipped candles and offer customers a fresh-brewed cup of her favorite Pennsylvania brew: Wawa coffee.
"My husband said, 'Live your dream,' " recalls Crandley. "And I did."
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Her store, Lynn Scents Candle Shop, now at 5415 Main St. in New Port Richey, showcases hundreds of her hand-dipped creations shaped like stars, hearts, pillars and hexagons. She sells shell-candles (using finds from her own shelling expeditions), candles shaped like mini-Bundt cakes, a type of inward burning candle called a hexagon oblique and a large selection of tarts - slow burning, heavily scented wax discs - displayed in wicker baskets.
She also specializes in making candles for weddings, showers and anniversary parties.
"And I just made favors for an adoption party," she says. "I love doing weddings because I love the deadlines."
She works in a back room on an old steel-topped wooden table from a convent in Pennsylvania.
"A friend of mine who owns a bakery gave it to me under the condition that I never sell it."
The room contains a large vat that can melt 35 to 40 pounds of wax at a time, bags of colored wax and molds, including a half-dozen tiny Bundt molds that she had just filled with hot red wax and was centering with wicks.
Scents range from mango to love spell to sandalwood to a heady brew called Wedding Day, which smells like the ocean.
Her candle scents waft from the front door and mingle around the cafe-style wicker table and chairs out front where guests are encouraged to relax over a cup of coffee. The shop sits nestled in a strip mall that houses an eclectic cache of shops, including Pangea, a store that sells hand-crafted gifts from around the world.
"I think you can smell both our stores from outside," said owner Judith Shedden. "I burn sandalwood incense, and she's got great candles."
At home, Crandley likes to light candles all over the house: in the bedroom, bathroom and living room.
Bright lights bug her.
It's a way of making the house glow, especially for parties, like their upcoming Christmas get-together and a sleepover for about two dozen girlfriends, many of whom are fans of her candle business.
She and her husband share their home with her 17-year-old son, a niece and their pet chihuahua. They both love to entertain, cruise Tampa Bay in their tri-hull boat and go shelling at Anclote Key. They both serve on the board of Gulf Harbors Yacht Club, a place they love and where they were married.
"I love New Port Richey - I've made the best friends of my life here. I never want to go back to Philadelphia," she says with a laugh, "not even for a visit."
Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at email@example.com.