Good candles are delightfully aromatic and for one married entrepreneurial couple, the scent is good business indeed.
Theresa and Brian Kim have owned and run Candle Emporium, a store specializing in high-end candles on Toronto’s Yorkville Avenue, for the past 19 years — no small feat for any small business.
Theresa says the friendly nature of Torontonians has been a large part of what has made the store a rewarding experience to run.
“I love my customers. I’m very pleased to see them happy — that’s what makes me want to stay here,” Theresa said.
Originally from Korea, Theresa, 63, and Brian, 66, moved to Montreal in 1988 to start a new life. They moved to Toronto and started Candle Emporium in 1990 because their kids wanted to study English.
They bought the store location from a previous owner who told them the original store had opened in the 1950s and was likely the first candle shop in Toronto. Theresa believes the store’s resilience can be attributed to the innate comfort good candles can bring.
“Candle light is really different from electric light. It’s more romantic, more of a luxury. I think it makes you feel happier,” Theresa said.
Beeswax candles are a big hit at the store, due to the fact they tend to burn longer and brighter than other candles, while high-quality aromatic candles are a favourite for relaxing with lavender and vanilla being by far the most popular aromas.
Brian says the biggest challenge when the couple started out was learning enough English to be able to converse with customers to provide the best possible service.
Given the shop’s Yorkville address, it’s no surprise that more than a few famous customers have walked through its doors, including former Canadian Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson and figure skater Kristy Yamaguchi.
Usually though, other customers have to point out when a celebrity was just in the store.
“We never recognize the famous people!” Brian joked.
The couple’s success hasn’t come only in business — the pair will celebrate their 41st wedding anniversary this year, proving that love can be the most rewarding partnership of all. They don’t admit to having any particular secret to their strong marriage but they both agree that knowing when to let the other person “win” is important.
As for what keeps their store successful, Theresa says it’s nothing more than hard work and great service.