Coffee with Makers • Melissa Smith of 1820 House

Meet our first non-Memphis maker, Melissa Smith! Her candles are such a hit, that we wanted to know absolutely everything about her. For starters, Melissa, 48, lives in a c. 1820 homestead in East Palestine, Ohio—hence the name of her business. She hates talking about herself, but we made her do it anyway.

Tell us about yourself:

When you ask “tell us about yourself” do you want to know my history or just about me as in what my current LIFE is all about?

As far as my start, it was a happy accident. I was selling vintage and antique items from our c.1820 home. I literally would decorate a room with things and people would come and buy right off my wall or off my webpage.  

During that time in 2004, I started doing a holiday weekend event once a year around Thanksgiving. I wanted candles as a small item people could purchase if nothing else “floated their boat.” After much trial and error and some really sad candle prototypes, [my husband and I] came up with a winning formula—a really small batch style on the stove. 

As the economy took a dive around 2008, we noticed that the antiques took a backseat to the candles and we decided that opening a storefront and really digging in to come up with collections with great branding was the new direction to go. After our logo was perfected, a website was built, and specific candle collections were created, we took to the cities to get exposure.  

Coming from a village of 3500 people meant we had to think outside the box, so we added wholesale stock lists and captured some momentum with IG (@1820house) and Facebook. Somehow we have outgrown our original workspace and are now carried in retail shops all over the country. It’s badass and amazing!

Tell us more about where you live and about your daily life:

I’m a late bloomer in the business but super young in the mind. I’m 48. I live in a small town called East Palestine in Ohio that was named so by the wife of the man who platted the town because it reminded her of the Holy land with its rolling hills and beauty. We are part of the Rust Belt where industry such as potteries, coal, and steel were once dominant. Now tech-based businesses and small entrepreneurial businesses are making a comeback.

My husband and I live on the 160 acre farm I grew up on.  We restored the c.1820 homestead in 2002. My dad, “Tub,” the town celebrity, still farms it with cattle and crops so we get to be surrounded by all that awesomeness all the time. Our kids are all officially over 18 so we are semi-empty nesters. When we aren’t working 60 plus hour weeks we are taking care of the landscape at our farm and planning out hikes and road trips. (We can hope for a break once in awhile, right?)

I am a part of the Community Foundation in our town and help with beautification projects. I’m a wannabe philanthropist with as many worthy charities as I can support. I love my daily coffee, evening glasses of wine, and an occasional arrowhead hunt. (Yep, our farm was prime hunting grounds for the Woodland and Adena Indians.)

I’m also obsessed with coming up with the next best fragrance or design idea with my business. My mind just won’t quit!!

You mentioned our favorite word, coffee. Tell us how much you drink and what kind:

I drink coffee EVERY SINGLE DAY. We grind whole bean in the morning and my husband and I share a whole pot! When it’s just me or when I want a cup at my studio I do a pour over. My favorites are single origins (Guatemalan, Costa Rican, Honduran and Tanzanian Peaberry).

Ok back to the candles -- how do you come up with the scents? What are the best sellers? What's your process like?

With all of our lines we start with our pure plant wax base. It is made up of soybean, coconut, a bit of palm, and some proprietary botanical elements. I try really hard to come up with fragrances that are true to the element name. I’m not one for quirky or cute names, so when researching, I take inspiration from nature, history and music. (I have a collection of over 50,000 songs on my old iPod classic!) I like to break down the compositions of the fragrance notes and select the ones that are most recognizable to the customer. Some of our most coveted scents have been amazing combinations that are discovered by trial and error using varying ratios of fragrance and blending them. A winner must smell great on the shelf and amazing while burning. I like to refer to our process as “forage + burn.”

It is super hard to pick top sellers because we have such a broad collection but moving into fall, these are some of our best-selling combinations:

Bourbon + Apple
Western Cedar + Fir
Blue Sage + Mint
Balsam + Citrus
Leather + Tobacco

You'll be able to find our largest selection yet of her line in the next couple weeks, including her coveted Holiday Collection. Stop in and get them before they're gone!