Allyu, whose name derives from the Quechua word for community, has a long standing belief in celebrating the ideas, people, and earth that surround us. This year we will be showcasing local members of the Chicago community that share those beliefs.
We pride ourselves on appreciating and helping our environment, from the recycled barn wood that covers our walls to our extensive recycling program, and choosing to only work with environmentally conscious retail partners. One of those partners is Gerri of Nicolet Candle Company, an original member of the Allyu family and our lead massage therapist.
For nine years, Gerri Brunner has been filling homes (and Allyu Spa) with luxurious and eco-friendly scents that warm the heart and please the nose. Originally starting when she was unable to find candles in recycled glassware, Nicolet Candle Company is now carried in 26 stores throughout the Chicago area and at their booth during the city’s summer street festivals and craft fairs.
Gerri took the time to answer some burning questions about Nicolet’s origins and why sustainability is key.
Shelbie: How did you get started in the candle making world? And what made you decide to make it a business?
Gerri: I have always loved candles and enjoyed making them for friends and family as gifts. I purchased a soy candle 10 years ago and was very impressed with how it burned. I tried to find a soy candle that was poured into a reclaimed or recycled glass and couldn’t; I decided to make one myself. The name ‘Nicolet’ comes from Nicolet National Forest, located in northern Wisconsin. It is a beautiful and special place.
S: Nicolet has a commitment to sustainability and is made from recycled wine bottles. What drives that focus? Are there any other ways your company sticks with that concept?
G: I believe in protecting the environment and keeping it beautiful for generations to come. Using reclaimed glassware helps reduce the amount of waste in landfills while preserving our resources. Every small gesture of environmental mindfulness makes a huge impact when we all take part. I was raised in a community where recycling was easy and everyone did it. I never really thought about it. It seems such a waste when something that could be reused, isn’t.
Another reason I started Nicolet is to help support other small businesses. I found Green Glass Company located in Wisconsin, which saves glassware from ending up in a landfill. They turn glass bottles into drinking glasses and make perfect candle vessels. I love that!
I am also a proud supporter of American Forests which plants 1 tree for every $1 donated.
S: What’s your process? What is the least understood or most underrated aspect of making candles?
G: Candle making will make you very strong! I lift 50 lb boxes of wax and haul car loads of candles around. The actual making of the candles is quite uneventful. The soy wax comes in flakes, which I weigh out and melt down. I add fragrance oils and essentials oils, which are added to the melted wax. Once it has cooled down, I pour the wax into glass containers. I handle each candle about 5 times during the whole process, from cleaning the glass to pouring the candle and getting it ready to sell.
S: How do you choose scents for your products and what is your favorite?
G: I base new scents on what I like and what my customers ask for. Our sense of smell is very individual and personal. I enjoy that. I really like Bergamot & Tarragon, it is lovely and fresh this time of year. Teakwood & Cardamom is a close second.
S: Do you have any tips and tricks for proper candle etiquette?
G: Great Question! Always trim the candle wick before lighting it every time. Either cut to 1/4 inch or bend wick in half. This make the flame smaller, making the candle burn longer, with less smoking. Also, burn the candle long enough (1-3 hours) for the melted wax pool to reach the sides of the glass. This will prevent ‘tunneling’ and get maximum burn time.
Towards the end of our conversation, Gerri had this to share about her company, “I want Nicolet Candle to be the best candle you have ever burned.”
Allyu Spa carries Nicolet Candles in the following scents: Ginger Fig, Bergamot & Tarragon, Teakwood & Cardamom, Blood Orange, and Balsam & Cedar. More scents can be found at www.nicoletcandlecompany.com