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Candle is dandy with liquor that flickers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Adam Morton can mix you a classic, old-school, tableside Caesar salad with hand-whipped dressing should you get him as your waiter at Laury's restaurant.

But when he removes his black jacket and tie and heads home he is likely whipping up something completely different: a gourmet homemade candle business.

His Bridge View Candles feature long-burning soy candles in handcut glass wine and liquor bottles with crafted wooden lids.

"I mainly do wine and liquor bottle candles, so it's a recycling project," he says. "Everything is handmade and hand poured. We top it off with a nice wooden lid that's normally made out of barn wood."

The mix of materials allows for some creativity, including candles with multiple wicks, a host of wine and liquor bottles from Cakebread Cabernet to single-batch Blanton Bourbon, all topped with hand-hewn lids.

"We're coming out with what we're calling our 'timberline' lids. Instead of being made out of plain board, we're cutting them straight out of the tree limb. It shows the rings of the tree. The stain really picks that up, so it's pretty neat."

The "we" he refers to is not some regional conglomerate or operation outsourced to Micronesia. It's mostly just him and the folks, Charlie and Sharon Morton.

"Mainly, it's just me and Dad. Mom does a little here and there, touching up things," he said.

Well, Mom does earn props for inspiring the basic idea of former wine bottle as retrofitted high-end candle.

"It was actually her idea in the first place. She was, like, 'I'm the curator.' I said, 'Well, you're kind of the muse -- you came up with the idea, and Dad and I took it to the next level.'"

Morton had noticed his mother using a glass cutter on her empty Woodbridge wine bottles, removing the labels and putting candles inside.

"I was like, wow, that's pretty cool. Maybe we should get higher-end candles, leave on the labels and learn how to make candles?" Morton recalled. "So, one thing led to another."

Morton's supply chain for empty bottles is extensive, including donations from work, from supportive customers as well other local restaurants and bars, sometimes trading finished candles for more empties.

"I collect bottles from Laury's, Bridge Road Bistro, Edgewood, Whiskey River [Pub], the Moose Club and I have a few of my regular customers at Laury's who save bottles for me," he said. "I've accumulated probably about 2,000 bottles in the seven months I've been doing this."

Depending on the bottle and style, Bridge View candles start at about $35 on up to the most expensive one, a large magnum wine bottle candle for about $100.

"Liquor bottles get to be a little more expensive -- they're bigger, the lids are harder to make. Some are square like a Jack Daniel's bottle. We really hand-size that lid to fit."

The soy candles burn longer than regular wax candles, with his midrange candles burning up to 150 hours and bigger candles in liquor bottles burning from 180 to 200 hours. "The Grey Goose, Belvedere, Chopin vodka -- those are normally my longest-burning candles," Morton said.

The candles feature various scents, including coconut-lime, maple-bourbon, vanilla, lavender, cinnamon and fresh linen, as well as seasonal scents. He's gearing up for fall with orange clove, apple spice and pumpkin soufflé.

Morton notes that the soy wax seems to help some people with allergies that preclude them from burning regular candles. "I've talked to a few people who won't burn candles because of allergies, and the soy wax kind of cuts down on that. I've had a few people say, well, I could burn that candle."

He is fast off the mark when people question why they should buy what amounts to a gourmet candle, when they can just head to Michael's and buy one for $5.

"It's not going to be as unique as these candles. People buy them not only because of their scent, but the custom look of the bottle. Or if it's their favorite wine or alcohol or their friend's favorite wine."

He sells about a 100 candles a month, sometimes fewer, sometimes more, through his website and 10 retail outlets in Charleston, including the Wine Shop at Capitol Market and Stray Dog Antiques on Hale Street, plus an outlet in Teays Valley, two in Fayetteville and one at a family friend's gift shop in Hermosa Beach, Calif.

He hopes to make this sideline operation his main occupation someday. But the family conglomerate advises him that it will take a lot more sales to get there.

"That's kind of my goal right now -- to make it a wholesale and retail business. Mainly, it's something I do during the day -- and the night."

Reach Douglas Imbrogno at douglas@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.


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