As the days grow shorter this time of year, there’s something remarkable about the glow of a lit candle in the evening. The right light and scent can add to the ambience, helping us to set a particular mood. Whether we’re feeling nostalgic for the scent of fresh-cut fir trees from our youth or wanting a sophisticated, romantic scent for a quiet night at home, a candle can help us tap into those emotions.
And isn’t it lovely when we can find one that’s made right here in the Texas Hill Country, close to home?
With almost twenty years in the candle-making business, Ben Boubel knows his candles. Before becoming a partner at the Comfort Candle Company in 2015, he spent fifteen years with another area company learning the finer points of the craft. Prior to that, he was a manager at a major national retailer. He still keeps a close eye on the competition.
“Our candles last longer than average,” he said confidently during a recent interview. “I would put our product up against any candle in any big box retailer.”
“We strongly believe in our products based upon their quality, price point, and the candlemaking process that Ben uses to enhance quality,” added Jeannine Smith, Boubel’s sister and business partner.
As co-owners, the siblings mesh well. Where Boubel brings his knowledge of candle making to the enterprise, Smith focuses on what she calls “the big picture,” including special projects and social media. Her previous gig? Twenty years working for Schlumberger Limited, a renowned oilfield services company, as a corporate petroleum trainer. The work took Smith to far-flung locales like China, Indonesia, India, and Pakistan.
“It was a cool job, and I still consult. But last year I bought out Ben’s partner. I guess I always knew I’d do something different when it came time to retire. I just didn’t think I’d get started so early,” she said.
Located for many years in a Comfort, Texas storefront (hence the company’s name), the business is now situated Fredericksburg in a sensible, no-frills facility.
“We have 1,500 square feet here and another 2,500 square feet for storage,” said Smith.
It’s in the unpretentious workspace—one that feels very much like an artist’s working studio or a science lab—that one will typically find Ben making candles, placing wicks, adding labels, taking orders, and shipping boxes around the country.
“Right now we’re about five percent direct sales and another 95% wholesale,” said Boubel.
Having made the move to Fredericksburg and streamlined their business to cut costs, the brother-sister team is working on a major logo change for their brand.
“The old logo just didn’t work for us anymore. We’re still refining it, but we’re going for a more minimalist design that better reflects our products, which have no dyes or colors and feature an all-cotton wick and soy wax,” said Smith. “We want the new label to be, like the scent of our candles, subtle and unobtrusive. We don’t want to compete with decor. We want to supplement it, to augment it.”
They’ve got their eyes fixed on the future, too.
“Costs increase every year in any business,” said Boubel, “and that just encourages us to keep on innovating, to keep the quality up to our standards. I experiment with different processes, always trying to keep a careful eye on how we mix the wax and scent to ensure quality and the life of the scent.”
“We also want to grow our business further by working on making private labels, something that we can do ourselves now in-house [thanks to new equipment],” said Smith.
“And because I’m always working here, keeping a close eye on stock, our candles don’t pile up. Unlike a lot of places, if you order from us [online or by stopping by the business], the candle hasn’t been sitting on a shelf for months,” said Boubel. “Our policy is ‘first order in, first order out.’ There’s very little time between when our candles are made and when they are shipped. They are truly fresh.”
Peak candle season extends from early autumn through to Valentine’s Day, with customers seeking both gifts and items for personal use. (Mother’s Day is a busy time, too.) In addition to the signature candles on offer, other Comfort Candle Company items include car fresheners, fragrance oils, and wax melts, each infused with one of 40 different scents.
“Our wax melts and fragrance oils are different than the run-of-the-mill variety,” said Boubel. “Ours burn clean and even, so when it’s time for clean up, you can usually just wipe the warmer out with a cloth. No mess.
“The great thing about what we do is that we offer a natural, high quality product that is affordable for everyone,” said Smith. “And because our core scents reference Hill Country places and things—Llano, Bluebonnet, Hill Country Home, Utopia, Divine, and of course Comfort—I think the vibe we send out is a welcome invitation for folks to come home to the Hill Country.”
It’s an invitation many will want to take them up on this holiday season.
Story by Pamela Price
Note: An earlier version of this article misidentified the places where Smith trained as being Angola and Kenya. We have corrected (and regret) the error.
726 Mustang Street #1
Fredericksburg, TX 78624