Scents that bring smiles
J & J Candles offers unique fragrances to its customers
MANSON — What started as a class project became a career for Janis Miller, of Manson.
Miller was a student in the accounting program at Iowa Central Community College when she and three other students were tasked with marketing a product.
That product was scented candles.
“We sold a ton of them to students and staff,” Miller recalled. “At the end of the project everyone quit doing it, but I decided to keep making them.”
That was about 23 years ago.
Following the class, Miller made the candles while also working a full-time job.
But as the demand increased for her candles, she had to make a decision.
“For a while I thought about getting out of it because I was working a 40 hour a week job, plus doing this part time,” Miller said. “So I decided to quit the 40 hour a week job and do this full time.”
That’s when she launched her business ,J & J Candles, 2971 200th St. in Manson.
Miller makes 195 different scented candles from her home west of Fort Dodge. She works from a building that was recently constructed on her property.
In that building there is a work space, a shipping area, and a small retail area.
All of the candles are handmade, she said.
On a recent day in her shop, Miller said she made about 85 candles. The process took her about 12 hours.
Miller doesn’t do it all alone, though. She gets some help from her family.
Her daughter, Rachael Castle, of Manson, helps with fragrances, while her husband, Jeremiah Miller, makes decorative boxes from barn wood.
“She just kept building and she needed help,” Castle said. “I am her daughter, so of course I am going to help.”
Castle added, “My mom is a wonderful person and she cares very much about the work she does.”
But Castle makes sure her mom still has plenty to do.
“I make the wax melt,” Castle said. “I let her do the candles.”
“She lets me do all the messy work,” Janis Miller said.
With candles, the fragrance is key.
“You have to set your wicks in the jars,” she said. “I use a little sticky on the bottom of the wick. So you set your wicks, you melt your wax until it’s completely melted, add your color, and the very last thing is to add the fragrance.
If you let it sit, the fragrance will burn out. As I take the wax out, I take it out, I set it down. I add the scent and then I pour. When you pour these, you have to top off twice because they sink down.”
Miller said the various scents can trigger memories for customers.
“I love bringing back memories,” she said.
One particular scent for those who can’t get enough of Iowa is called Heart and Soil of Iowa.
“People love coming home to Iowa,” Miller said. “They miss the smells.”
Castle had her idea of what the candle smells like.
“It smells like dirt,” she said.
Castle seemed to prefer the scent of Jamaican Bay rum, which comes in a yellow color.
“That’s one of our newer ones,” she said.
Miller started her business with four fragrances: blueberry cheesecake, Home Sweet Home, cinnaberry, and vanilla.
Her top seller is a fragrance called Bite Me, which smells like a fizzy fruit punch, she said.
When she first tells customers the name, it can cause some confusion.
“They don’t know if I’m talking to them or if that’s the scent,” Miller said. “We have fun with it.”
Chubby Hubby, Unicorn Kisses, and and Grandpa’s Pipe, are a few other examples of candles Miller offers.
J & J candles are sold in about 10 stores in Iowa and Minnesota.
The candles can be purchased from Sew Formal in Fort Dodge; Liberty Market in Gowrie; Fringe in Manson; and Carbon Boutique in Humboldt.
“We do a lot of deliveries,” she said. “At Christmas time we do a lot of shipping.”
The candles have been shipped to 35 different states, she said.
Miller said she enjoys seeing the reactions of customers when they smell certain fragrances.
“I love making people happy,” she said. “I love the looks on their faces.”
If you go
What: Open house
When: March 23
Where: J & J Candles,
2971 200th St. in Manson
Time: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., weather permitting