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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Founder of Rustic Candle Monica Cota talks inspiration and future of her candle store on Fourth Avenue

Aiden Vens
A variety of locally crafted candles on sale at the Rustic Candle Company located on 4th Avenue.

Rustic Candle on Fourth Avenue has been around for 14 years, and Monica Cota, it’s owner and founder, remains humble and hopeful.

Cota was inspired to try candle making after visiting a small store similar to her own while on a road trip. After graduating college, she dove in without any business knowledge and has steadily built up her product and process.

Cota is assisted by two part-time employees but the store has mostly remained her own. The enjoyment she gets from her work is palpable, as is how much care she puts in the production of her candles.

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“I have to say the dirt candle [is my favorite],” Cota said. “I wish I could show you one right now, but we’re sold out of it. I love it because it’s just such a novelty fragrance. It’s just in a pillar style … It smells exactly like fresh, wet dirt after a rain or if you were gardening. It’s a very earthy, rich, wet Earth smell.”

Though the seasonal scents are also beginning to re-emerge now that the weather is finally cooling off, Cota’s shop still holds some Calavera candles made yearly for All Souls’ Day. The varying shapes of candles are created with plastic molds, but the majority of the candles found in the shop are basic pillars.

With noted customer interest, Cota plans on selling her first jarred candles by 2017. This doesn’t mean she will quit creating the iconic free candles, though, a style which inspired the name of the store.

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“I knew that they weren’t going to come out perfect, and I liked that they look hand-made and funky,” Cota said. “Once I had started making them and knew that I liked that hand-made, rustic look, I started making them to look rustic on purpose with a whitewash finish on them. I just decided rustic should be the name since they look unperfect.”

The perfectly imperfect candles are accompanied for sale with other crafts from local artists and objects from around the world, such as incense. The most local supplier in that regard is from Sedona, according to Cota, supplying her with white sage, resin incense and palo santo. She also sells her candles to Swindlers on University Boulevard and to a store in Sierra Vista, Arizona.

One last unique feature of Cota’s store is her wax recycling, which encourages customers to save their wax melt to be exchanged for store credit. This wax is then used for candles created out of a colorful hodgepodge of the remelted and filtered wax, which makes them fun regardless of not being able to buy them for a specific scent, and they are about $3 less than regular candles of the same sizes.

“The great thing about wax is it doesn’t really expire,” Cota said. “It can be reheated, repoured, recycled, reused. So we actually do have a wax recycling program with a 50 cents store credit per pound of wax … It’s fun because no two of these candles are ever the same.”

Follow Gretchyn Kaylor on Twitter.

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