By Lee Noles
MONROE – There always seems to be one problem when Rick Ward sells his candles.
People would rather eat them than burn them.
“All the time,” Ward says with a laugh. “Because they do look like food. I have people come up to me and ask for a sample. I tell them I can give you a sample, but I don’t think they’ll like it.”
The reason for the culinary confusion is Ward’s candle creations are purposely made to resemble an assortment of pies and puddings; right down to the size, texture and fragrance. Ward first noticed the idea while shopping at a mall in Gatlinburg, Tennessee nearly 15 years ago. He bought a few and brought them home to find out the process in making them. It took a while, but Ward said he never got frustrated trying to figure out the steps to create the candles.
“I enjoy it,” Ward said. “There are five or six steps to the pies. So when it hardened and wasn’t what I wanted, I would melt it back down and start over and over again.”
Finding the right type of wax for each pie or pudding is essential in making the perfect candle, according to Ward. Soy wax has a soft texture, which is good for banana pudding. Paraffin wax has a harder feel, making it well suited for the rougher type of pies like pecan. Ward also says gel wax is another consistency that can make a good candle.
Once Ward melts the wax around 200 degrees in a vat he has in a shed behind his house, he then puts the mixture into a mold. At the same time the wax is melting, Ward pours the fragrances that smells just like the pies and puddings and lets it sit for the remainder of the day to harden. After making the life-like nuts and fruits out of molds, he then places them on top of the pies and puddings. Ward said people really enjoy the pecan pie candle, but the banana pudding is his favorite to make.
“It’s just the look of it,” Ward said. “I like trying to make it look so realistic. The bananas have the indentions just like you would cut it. That’s the whole part of it for me is trying to make it as realistic as possible.”
At first, Ward mainly gave away the candles as gifts during the holidays, but he soon realized he had a good thing on his hands when his mom started taking them to her friends.
“She would call me up and say I need three more banana pies,” Ward said.
The reaction persuaded him to start selling them at a fair grounds in Nashville. The enjoyment soon became a nightmare, however, because Ward was spending all his time working at his regular job during the day, and then creating his pies and puddings at night to keep pace with the orders.
“I was bombarded,” Ward said. “I thought ‘What did I get myself into,’”
The hectic pace and a move to Union County a few years ago to be near his three grandchildren had Ward getting out of the candle business. It didn’t take long after moving to Monroe that he realized how much he enjoyed the work.
In addition to his pie and puddings, Ward sells candles which feature more natural fragrances at Peddler’s Paradise in Monroe.
The business has been more than just a retirement hobby for Ward. He said it has taught him about being patient and enjoying the process of making the candle more than the excitement of having a finished product.