International Falls native Brian Bahr wanted to make the first anniversary of his father’s death a positive one. So when Sept. 1 rolled around this year, it was the day Bahr opened a Mall of America kiosk for his business, Northwood Candle Company.
It was a business he and his father, the late Kenneth Bahr, who owned Sportsman’s Paradise and Evergreen Lawn Care in the Falls, wanted to start together.
Brian Bahr, 30, remembers the days he and his father, would get up at 4 a.m. to make sausage and talk about business ideas. One of the ideas they kicked around for years was starting a candle-making company.
“We talked about it and were going to start it last fall, right before I lost him,” Brian Bahr said. “I decided to continue on with it.”
Following in his father’s footsteps as a business owner, Bahr started Northwood Candle Company last year “from ground zero,” said his mother, Nancy Bahr of International Falls.
“He just decided to keep that dream; that kept him motivated,” said Nancy Bahr. “Just thinking of his dad, he would just keep following the dream that they had together.”
Brian Bahr grew up in the Falls and now lives in the Twin Cities. His father’s businesses were under the corporation name of Northwood Enterprises, so he incorporated that business name when starting the new venture.
Prior to starting the business last fall, Brian Bahr had been experimenting with candle-making for about three years. He researched combinations of wax, wicks, fragrances and tested the waters.
He decided soy candles were the best quality because they are made of a natural wax containing American-grown soy beans, he said.
“It burns longer and the fragrance is better because it doesn’t have all those chemicals in it,” he said.
Bahr makes every candle he sells by hand. He started slow, making candles as gifts for family and friends. Then he started a website and put a company Facebook page up.
“All of a sudden people started spreading it around,” Bahr said.
Before Bahr began renting a kiosk at Mall of America this month, sales were exclusively online. Toward the end of June this year, word had spread about Bahr’s candle company.
“We got 23,000 emails and 12,000 fans on our Facebook page in a span of about 20 hours,” Bahr recalled. “That’s how everything kind of took off for us.”
Northwood Candle Company now carries about 50 scents of soy container candles with names ranging from Butterfly Hugs and Smiley Face to Hillbilly Homebrew and Monkey Farts. More traditional names include Grapefruit Mango, Grandma’s Kitchen and Watermelon Taffy.
Bahr’s goal is to carry 200 original scents by next year.
“We’ll always keep the scents we have now,” he said. “But also experiment and add more.”
Bahr also intends to have a full line of holiday candles this winter. In the future, he plans to develop a glow-in-the-dark candle line for children, which will be wickless candles that melt in a warmer.
His most popular candles are ones with special wick that makes a crackling sound when the candle burns. For every regular wick candle he sells, six crackling wick candles are sold, he said.
“He’s always been so creative,” said Nancy Bahr. “I’m just so proud of him for taking that initiative to get a business going and to stay with it throughout all the challenges.”
Focusing on the candle company helped him cope with the loss of his father, he said.
“It was hard,” said Bahr. “The candle company made it easier and kept me going.”
Although Bahr doesn’t live in International Falls now, he said the town carries lots of meaning to him and his business.
“That will always be home,” he said.
To give back to his hometown, the community where the candle business idea began and where Bahr lived until he was 26, he is offering a 10 percent holiday discount now through Christmas for anyone from International Falls. To take advantage of the offer, Falls residents can stop by the Northwood Candle Company kiosk in the west side of Mall of America on level 1 or contact Nancy Bahr for a 10 percent discount and free shipping on online orders. Nancy Bahr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 218-283-2630.
For more information, visit www.northwoodcandlecompany.com.