Eldersburg couple's candle business gets glowing reception from Country Music Awards

Country music stars will get a whiff of Eldersburg next week.

After being chosen as the official candle of the gift tent at the Country Music Awards on Nov. 1, in Nashville, the Eldersburg-based company, Unwined Candles, will have its products in gift bags for all participants.

For owners and creators Dave and Anna Neith, that means late nights and full weekends as he makes more than 300 candles to take to Nashville.

"It's a little overwhelming … a good problem to have," Dave Neith said. "It's not something that happens every day. I'm just excited to get them out there. It's a bonus it's Nashville and the Country Music Awards."

Unwined Candles have been a crazy ride for the couple. The company was founded last December as a way to bring in a little extra money for the couple and their three small children. Neith first made his candles in a pot on a stove in his basement kitchen.

"It was tons of trial and error," he said, of his first candles. "We wanted … to make them different."

The candles are different. Made with soy wax, they come in scents that include Grandma's Kitchen, Winter Woods, Eastern Amber and the decidedly country-music-sounding 5 O'Clock Somewhere (described as "pineapple, orange and cranberry ... with subtle notes of peach schnapps and vodka").

But perhaps the most "different" element is the one that lent itself to the company's name: Unwined Candles uses recycled wine bottles as containers.

"You look all around, all the restaurants have cases and cases of wine bottles," Dave Neith said. The company uses a simple "green" concept — taking discarded bottles, cutting them about in half and using the base for the candle holder.

Karen Leatherwood, owner of Carroll County Waste Services, is happy to provide Neith with bottles.

"It's so fun," Leatherwood said. "I love the idea you are able to reuse something. The candles are lovely and smell so good. I'm so tickled to partner with Dave and provide bottles."

But Dave Neith says not everyone understands what he is doing.

"A lot of people find it to be a hassle when you approach them with it," he said of requesting the bottles. "We're bringing them back to life again."

Bobby Mitchell, owner of Cobblestone Tavern and Grille, provides bottles for several people, he said, including Unwined Candles.

"A lot of people use them," Mitchell said. "(The bottles are) getting used instead of being thrown away. It helps out on both ends."

Leatherwood said she's also excited that the candles will be given out at the CMA.

"That's so cool," Leatherwood said. "I feel we got this connection to it. I feel like, 'you're a part of this.' "

Perhaps it was the "green" element that organizers of the CMA liked; maybe it was that 5 o'clock Somewhere scent. Dave Neith isn't sure.

"We were actually just approached by the agency that puts on the shows," he said. "They also put on the gift lounges for shows like the Grammys, Oscars. I just received an email one day and a rep from them said they were interested in having me down for the show.

"Last year, they had Yankee Candle, and I think they wanted to try something a bit more original, and eco-friendly. Glad they stumbled upon my candles."

While Dave envisions one day moving Unwined Candles out of his basement to a warehouse, for now he has a system in place, and the support of family, to help remove labels from bottles, cut, sand and wash bottles, add wicks, melt wax and blend scents and colors, add labels and pack for shipping.

"It's crazy," Anna said. "There are like 20 steps. His family has been amazing. They've been encouraging and supportive. It's a lot and they really help out a lot."

Dave will cut back on events after the fundraiser, to focus on holiday orders. At the beginning of the year, however, he will start attending various festivals and events, which he enjoys doing and credits for getting his candles known.

"Festivals are super helpful," he said. "You talk to people one to one and you get a lot of feedback. Bad or good, any feedback is good for what we do."

For more information about Unwined Candles, go to the website, http://www.unwined candlecompany.com.

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