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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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."
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 motorcitycandleworks.com, or at the following locations in Detroit: Bonnie Gifts and SundriesCompuware Headquarters 47 Monroe StreetCalumet Market & Spirits200 Renaissance Center #262Cherylynn's Gold Crown Hallmark300 Renaissance Center Ste 1302A Gallagher's of Detroit18495 Mack AvenueLe Petit Magasin du Detroit1009 Cass (Entrance on Lafayette)Renaissance Tobacco 500500 Renaissance Center Ste 111