HEDGESVILLE — It wasn’t that long ago that Marley Max Candles & More owner Robbie Newcome was crafting candles as a way to provide gifts for loved ones, a hobby in which he found a passion. But fast forward, a little more than a decade later and Newcome has transitioned that passion into a thriving business with two brick-and-mortar locations as well as an online presence.
“I started making candles in about 2009, just didn’t have any money and it was something easy I could make for everybody, friends and family and stuff,” Newcome recalled. “I did that, and it was a success. People just started wanting candles from me as gifts. They didn’t want anything else from me. Then their friends started wanting candles, so I started selling out of my house. I did that until 2016, between working other different jobs. I stopped doing it for a couple years and went to college to become a medical assistant. Went into the field with that and wasn’t too happy with it.
“When I left that, I decided that I just wanted to work for myself. In 2018 is when I leased my first space in Berkeley Springs. That opened in January of 2019, and I did that for about a year and half. It was going well. My space here in Hedgesville just kind of fell in my lap, so I did that. That’s how the second store came about.”
The Hedgesville location officially opened in October.
Located on Fairfax Street in Berkeley Springs and on Hedgesville Road in Hedgesville, Marley Max is a trove of treasures, spanning from Newcome’s candles and wax melts to so much more. But it’s his hand-crafted items, the ones he pours — literally — his heart into that has helped the business flourish in the short years.
“I’m very proud of my businesses, very protective of them,” Newcome said.
He explained that when the business grew from crafting small orders in his home to needing enough to stock two stores, the biggest challenge was obtaining the equipment to meet the demand and learning how to operate it, going from 10 candles at a time to around 200.
Still, Newcome thrives in the creative outlet, one that allows him to find small joys frequently, like finding the perfect scent in his own crafting or for a customer.
“When I order my scent oils and I see something new, it’s, ‘Oh, I want to try to that,’” he said. “It’s almost like Christmas when you get it because you don’t know what it’s going to be until you smell it.
“I have different favorites because I’ve been up close and personal with each one when I was making them. I like the Rattlesnake Grass. The Rattlesnake Grass is an actual plant, but it has kind of a green, citrus smell is the best way to explain it. Probably the Voodoo Love is my next favorite. That’s like a floral, patchouli kind of smell. It’s one of my more popular scents.”
With scents spanning from fruity to citrus to food-related and more, Newcome can help customers walk away with the perfect gift for loved ones or themselves. And he’s curated an inventory that speaks to the clientele, featuring other goods like friendship balls, soaps and so much else.
“I base a lot of what I carry based on what customers ask for,” he said.
While the Hedgesville location is still gaining regular clientele with the new business opening amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Newcome said there’s a sense of pride that comes from those who frequent the Berkeley Springs storefront, a reminder that customers truly love the products he offers.
“It’s really special when people come back up there because (Berkeley Springs is) more of a tourist space now,” he said. “It’s locals saying, ‘We stand behind this product, and we’re going to continue to buy it.’”
Newcome is expanding the offerings at the Hedgesville location, in a sense, as he continues to pick up more and more candle making classes, events he’s been hoping to do for some time, the Hedgesville location offering the perfect space.
“The classes are something I have wanted to do since I opened my Berkeley Springs store,” he said. “People have always asked, but up there, the way the store is laid out, I don’t have enough space to do them. When I got this space, that was probably the most exciting thing: I can hold classes. I have a nice big back room, got plenty of room for it. I love doing them. We just had one this past Saturday night, and we had a really good time.”
In the classes, Newcome explains where soy wax originated and the difference between soy and paraffin wax before diving into the actual process, students getting hands-on experience and walking away with their own candle crafted right then and there.
“I do it step by step, and I give everybody there a sheet that has exactly how you make your candles as far as measuring out the wax, the containers you use, how much scent you need, so when people leave here and go home, they can make a candle,” Newcome said.
And just like when he finds the perfect scent in his own candle making, seeing the students experience that moment, the flash of clarity when finding the perfect choice, is a true highlight of the classes.
“I don’t how to explain it. It’s like when I said that when I get a new scent it, it’s like Christmas,” Newcome said. “When you see them and their faces lights up when they find the scent they want to make. That’s their Christmas that day.”
Another highlight is simply being able to offer in-person classes amid the pandemic, the Hedgesville location featuring enough space to distance as he limits class sizes to accommodate.
“I get to meet people,” Newcome said. “It’s not the same as somebody coming in and I chat with them for a few minutes while they’re looking around. I’m actually spending – depending if they want to wait for their candle to cure or not – I’m spending to three hours with them. We’re chatting and talking. Saturday night, we talked about stuff that has nothing to do with candles. It’s just fun to sit and talk to different people and meet people.”
Marley Max features the typical COVID-19 guidelines with both staff and customers required to wear masks when inside the store along with frequent sanitization.
For more information, Marley Max can be found online at www.mymarleymax.com or on Facebook at Marley Max of Hedgesville and Marley Max Candles & More.