SHOP TALK – March 2015
By Veronique McAree | Photography by Sarah Beard Buckley
Meet the Gaffneys, founders of Seawicks Candle Company. Better yet, visit their charming Damariscotta shop, Off to the Cottage.
You can take my word for it: a visit to Seawicks won’t disappoint. And you can get Martha Stewart’s thumbs-up too, as Seawicks was chosen as a finalist in the 2014 Martha Stewart American Made Awards contest, which celebrates the passion, creativity, and craftsmanship of small business owners.
The recognition is a huge honor, of course, but when you consider that Michael and Cara Gaffney, who live in Edgecomb, have been making candles for just three years, it’s even more impressive.
Ever since the Gaffneys founded Seawicks, the company has been a go-to purveyor of deliciously scented candles—each made in small batches by hand from 100 percent soy.
Recently, the Gaffneys gave us a tour of their shop, Off to the Cottage, which opened in 2013, along with a behind-the-scenes look at their Seawicks candle-making workshop
In back of the store is the manufacturing operation: a small room where the soothing smell of melting soy wax fills the air, boxes and tools of the trade line tabletops, and candles in glass containers wait to be shipped. With growing demand (L.L.Bean and Company C are recent buyers) and dozens of candles in process at any one moment (plus two young boys to raise), the couple is busy.
The idea for candle making came from Michael’s former job with Village Candle. Six years ago, after the couple moved to Maine and withstood a long winter of power outages, during which they burned through many candles, they yearned for the summer scent of the coast. With this in mind, Seawicks came into being.
Seawicks’ candles are hand poured in small batches using 100 percent soy wax from U.S.-grown soybeans. The 26 Maine-inspired scents are blended to evoke memories of the coast, with names like Fog Cutter, Beneath the Pines, and Berries and Fog.
Most recently, the couple introduced a new collection called “The Weathered Sailor” available in six scents with a decidedly masculine edge. Look for candles like Bay Rum, Sailor’s Punch, and Tobacco Leaf—perfect for your favorite mariner.
They’ve also branched out, offering a small selection of bath soaks in lovely scents like Eucalyptus and Peppermint, Grapefruit and Lime, and Rosemary Lavender, packaged in beautiful glass bottles and carrying the same graphic labels designed by Cara.
Visitors to Off to the Cottage can browse (and smell-test) the entire collection of candles on display, as well as check out an eclectic collection of home goods, jewelry, and accessories. Some of the finds include wonderful vintage signs, nautical items, glassware, and knickknacks. The Gaffneys find some of the items at auctions and antique markets, while other things are crafted by like-minded Maine makers who create jewelry, bags, and so on in small batches right here in Maine.
Check it out—but if the vintage hotel sign is still for sale, don’t even think about it. This, along with their Beach Girl candle, are on my wish list.
Finally, once you’ve chosen your favorite scents, make a stop at Treats in Wiscasset for well, treats. It’s the only other business in Maine also named a finalist (this one for food) in Martha Stewart’s American Made Contest.
A Little More Shop Talk:
WHAT SETS YOUR CANDLES APART?
“We use 100% U.S.-grown soy in all our candles, with no dyes and all-natural cotton wicks. Our scents evoke memories: everything from five o’clock happy hour on the front porch to the scent of lilacs hugging a summer cottage. Our candles allow you to bring home those memories. And the fact that they are hand poured right here in Damariscotta makes them even more unique in the marketplace.”
AND WHY VINTAGE FINDS?
“You’ll find new and vintage items at Off to the Cottage. The reason is we have a love of antiques and unique products. We travel all over to bring great finds into the shop. And like the candles, the pieces have great stories— it’s fun to share them with customers.”