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SPARTA, Wis. – Kim Schmidt says she enjoys being among the cute little shops in downtown Sparta, after opening her Candles by Kim & Primitive Decor store there in November.

Her shop opened Nov. 18 at 101½ N. Water St., where Schmidt makes and sells what she calls highly scented candles. It also sells primitive decor and some other items such as jewelry, winter scarves and some specialty food products made in the area, including maple syrup, jams, jellies, honey and dip mixes.

Schmidt also wholesales some of her candles to several area retail stores. And she sells some candles to customers by telephone and email, and at a few area craft shows from September to December.

Schmidt and her husband, Ken, live in West Salem. They closed their Country Pantry & More discount groceries, candles and primitive decor store along Highway 16, between West Salem and Bangor, in early November, so Kim could focus on and expand the candle and decor parts of the business in a new location.

The Schmidts and Kim’s sister and brother-in-law, Candi and Larry Brown, had started Country Pantry in 2011 in Melrose and moved it to east of West Salem in 2013. The Browns later sold their interest in the business to the Schmidts.

Kim said the grocery part of the Country Pantry business was taking too much time. “My candle business was getting bigger and bigger,” she said. “I wanted to downsize my square footage, get out of groceries and continue to expand my candle operation.”

Schmidt, who was raised in Sparta, decided to locate her store among the “cute little shops” in that community’s downtown. “I like having all the little shops down here, and I like shopping at small businesses because it helps with community growth,” she said. “It’s gone really well” since she opened her store in November.

Schmidt began making candles as a hobby around 2009, and began selling them under the Candles by Kim name at Country Pantry when that business opened in 2011.

“My family was into candles and primitive decor” while she was growing up in Sparta, Schmidt said. She, her mother and her three sisters all enjoyed buying both.

Today, Candles by Kim’s biggest-selling items are candles made in 8-ounce jelly jars and tied with a narrow strip of primitive homespun fabric. “I sold a ton of them before Christmas,” Schmidt said.

She typically has about 45 kinds of her scented jar candles in the store at any time. The biggest-selling varieties change with the seasons.

Some favorite candle scents in the winter months include cranberry marmalade, caramel corn, blue spruce, and – at Christmas time – mistletoe, holly berry and Christmas hearth.

Schmidt said some popular candle scents in the spring and summer months are strawberry shortcake, lilac and honeysuckle jasmine.

About two years ago, she began making wine glass candles, by pouring melted wine-scented wax into wine glasses. Some of Schmidt’s most popular scents for those include merlot, chardonnay and raspberry sangria.

She also makes melting tarts, which are placed in tart warmers and release their fragrance as they melt.

On average, Schmidt makes candles in her store about three days a week. And on days when she is making them, she usually makes eight to 10 dozen candles per day.

Schmidt buys her primitive decor from wholesalers. Some of her most popular decor items include hand towels, wooden signs and various metal objects found on farms. She makes some of the store’s barn board signs and a sister makes Mason jar lamps.


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