Model D-troiters: Carl Allison

Carl Allison's bare-bones studio swirls with the romantic aromas of vanilla and the sweet smells of a cinnamon bun. Inside a former car factory, Allison cranks out candles in the Russell Industrial Center near New Center.

His company, Motor City Candleworks, sells a multitude of enticingly scented candles with names that evoke old Detroit.

"I thought it would be ... fun to name my candles after things in Detroit.  And then I thought, I ought to do more than that," says Allison.

These "Scents of History" come with mini-histories surrounding the origins of the candles' names. Each history is quick enough to not give the impression of a lecture, but also steeped in facts and witticisms to both inform and entertain the reader.

The candles range from the humorous (Paczki Principle is a creamy, berry scent in honor of Paczki Day and Hamtramck), to the more serious, like Rose Parks. The rose-scented candle was named for "one of the most special people that we have in this city," Rosa Parks, he says. 

Allison's candles often work for a good cause, too. Recently named public radio station WDET's development director, the candlemaker has long had a dedication to nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits can buy his candles at half price and sell them to raise money, and he'll even specialize jar labels for the groups and will sell them in quantities as small as three-dozen.

Allison also gives these organizations the opportunity to write their own histories along with their custom-made candles, a creative bonus that gives their candles the extra edge.  

Allison knows fund-raising, but really understands and knows candles, too.

When discussing his jar candles, he discusses how the "size of the wick related to the size of the jar is ... the perfect ratio", creating the right conditions for long, even burning.

Allison says he got started one night while burning a candle. "I thought it's just wax and string — there's got to be a way to do this," he says.

Soon he was spending hours in his kitchen experimenting with different types of wax and fragrances, giving his creations away to friends. Then he thought: "Someone should be paying me".  

Allison has lived downtown for the past 15 years. He says tying the products to Detroit was a natural fit. "I love to walk around the city, to just hear the city," he says. "It's so cosmopolitan ... so cool", he says, adding he is "thrilled Woodward [has become] a street to walk down."  

Allison considers himself to be "just a candlemaker" — a follower of the "artists" who came to the Russell Industrial Center first — but his passion for the city burns pretty brightly.

Carl Allison and Motor City Candle Works Copyright Dave Krieger

Motor City Candleworks primarily sells online at, or at the following locations in Detroit:  

Bonnie Gifts and Sundries
Compuware Headquarters
47 Monroe Street

Calumet Market & Spirits
200 Renaissance Center #262

Cherylynn's Gold Crown Hallmark
300 Renaissance Center Ste 1302A

Gallagher's of Detroit
18495 Mack Avenue

Le Petit Magasin du Detroit
1009 Cass (Entrance on Lafayette)

Renaissance Tobacco 500
500 Renaissance Center Ste 111

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