LEWISBURG — It’s been a heck of a ride, but after 32 years, Pat Hess is ready to call it quits.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” said Hess, who together with her husband, Greg, has owned and operated Colonial Candlecrafters since 1982. “This has been my life since I was 14 years old.”
Except for one day that she tried her hand waitressing at Bechtel’s Restaurant (actually, she recalled, it was more like three hours), making candles is all Hess has ever known. She grew up helping her parents, Howard and Beverly Bird, in the store during their tenure of ownership from 1972-82.
“By the age of 14 I was doing the ordering — my mom would give me a budget and I would take care of it,” said Hess.
And she loved it. So when the opportunity to buy out her parents came along in 1982, she and Greg didn’t hesitate before deciding to take on the challenge of becoming small-business owners themselves.
It took a while to get things moving, and the years weren’t always kind financially, but it’s an experience Hess said she wouldn’t trade for anything.
“It was tough at times, but after a while, things really got rolling,” she explained.
Attacking the future
At first it was all about figuring out how to be business owners. But soon, Hess said, they realized if they were going to make it, they would have to do more.
It was in the early 1990s, she said, when the couple sat down and decided they needed to “attack” the future head on. They began brainstorming.
“We started looking more toward the future and working on ways to build up the business,” she said. “In 1992, we introduced jar candles in 12 different fragrances and that’s when I think we found a really good niche.”
It was around the same time that she was approached about working with a local school interested in selling those jar candles as a fundraiser.
“Fundraisers have been really popular,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of success with those. We once had such a big order we had to rent a truck just to transport all of the candles to a place above Williamsport.”
Soon, they were so busy they found themselves needing more space. In 1995, they built the extension building that sits on the north side of the two-story brick original building, and moved all the manufacturing work there. Prior to that she had poured candles in the basement of the shop.
“That’s when things really exploded,” she said.