Visitors to the store love to ramble about the treasures found throughout two floors of the historic 1838 building, and to pick up their favourite Sparta Country Candles, from refreshing “April Showers” to rich “Spartaberry” (their signature candle scent). Adding to the charm, visitors are always greeted warmly at the front door, with the best kind of welcome – a sample of creamy fudge.
Says Mary, “I worked two jobs for the first five years to keep this place going. Pat was the mainstay here.” The candles were introduced in 1995 and when production zoomed from the initial 18 candles a night in the family kitchen to hundreds a day, Mary knew it was time to devote herself full-time to the store.
She notes, Pat deserves a lot of credit for the store’s longevity throughout economic ups and downs. “He did advertising on TV when we couldn’t afford it and nobody else was doing it. He made this place a destination, and worked very hard at creating that.”
The candles are central to Pat and Mary’s success. From the beginning, their goal was to create high-quality candles at affordable prices. They’ve also been innovative in their methods, selling only direct to customers and introducing refills for their containers, saving the customer money and decreasing waste.
They take pride in being active contributors to the Sparta community and local projects and initiatives. Mary often takes a lead in the organization and promotion of village-wide family-friendly special events that take place throughout the year. Making the store and their operations environmentally sound has also been a top priority, from the re-usable candle holders to recycled shipment containers, and incorporation of a multitude of energy-saving measures in-store. Sparta Candles contributions were recognized with a Chamber of Commerce Free Enterprise Award in 2002.
Mary emphasizes the importance of family and staff to the Sparta Country Candle story. She smiles about a still-vivid memory of the first Mother’s Day when son Mark was 10 years old and stood handing out carnations to mothers as they came in the front door. She also remembers trekking the country side with both sons to attend auction sales. Says Mary, “I remember looking at a wardrobe from the Don Ferguson farm near Fingal – it was beautiful solid walnut. Both boys insisted, ‘Don’t – its massive!” Well…. it's still upstairs. It comes apart in three pieces and I really hope it stays there forever – and so do they!”
Asked about the future, Mary notes that her staff have been amazing at coming up with ways to do things smarter, and suggestions that have helped them survive economic downturns. Son Mark, who is actively involved in the store, and her staff have proven themselves quite capable of taking on responsibility, so Mary smiles about a future that might perhaps see her handing off some of her workload to her son and staff. Pat agrees, “but only if there is an interest. It’s seven days a week and it never stops – you have to have a passion to make it successful.”
Anything Used and Sparta Country Candles is located at the main intersection in Sparta. It features unique home décor items, candle accessories, seasonal items and Sparta Country Candles. Stop in to wish them happy 20th and receive 20% off till the end of March. Find out more at http://www.spartacandles.com/. They are also on the Elgin Arts Trail.