Creative enterprise

  • Sara Washburn looks over the selection of Mingarelli Soy Wax Candles at the One Stop Shop extravaganza at Beaver Meadow. TIM GOODWIN / Monitor staff

  • Ross Mingarelli pours wax to make his soy candles in his basement in Warner. Ethan DeWitt / Monitor staff

  • Ross Mingarelli pours his soy candles in his basement in Warner. Ethan DeWitt—Monitor staff

  • Ross Mingarelli pours his soy candles in his basement in Warner. Ethan DeWitt—Monitor staff

  • Ross Mingarelli holds up the book he’s used as a guide to launch his candle-making enterprise. Ethan DeWitt / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Thursday, November 16, 2017

It started in early 2016, with a Pinterest page.

Two years into his self-run landscaping business and on the search for a side-hobby, Ross Mingarelli had taken to the craft-oriented website in search of something new. It wasn’t long before one page caught his eye: a do-it-yourself tutorial for soy wax candles.

He bought some starter materials – wax, jars, fragrance oils. He didn’t know where it would lead.

Today, that curiosity has turned into a business, with Mingarelli spending hours producing and selling thousands of candles with more than 240 scents from his home in Warner. It’s become a passion, drawing him to craft shows across the state and unleashing newfound creative panache. And its given him a dual-identity: adroit tree specialist by day, experimental craftsman by night.

Now, an impossible number of candles line shelves in Mingarelli’s basement, sporting scents as different as strawberry shortcake and silver fir. Mingarelli, who hand-crafts and packages all of them, said he’s looking to expand into a bigger space.

“It’s really taken off,” he said of the business, Mingarelli Soy Candles. “And it’s awesome.”

For Mingarelli, the move toward artistry was somewhat unexpected. For years, he stayed focused on his tree service business, hanging from ropes and wielding chainsaws in woods and backyards. Bearded, tattooed and sturdily built, he looks the part.

“I don’t look like a candle person,” he said.

But if the business choice appeared unlikely, the drive to make it succeed is nothing new. Mingarelli has long been independent-minded, regularly taking up side-projects and never taking a vacation. He puts his profits back into business investments or uses them to help out his parents.

As a landscaper, business was good. But that winter day on Pinterest in 2016, fresh off a shift as a snow-plow driver in Warner, Mingarelli wanted to set his sights bigger. He wanted a calling that could outlast the tree-work, which carries constant danger and is rarely in demand year-round.

Candling, he says, has fit the bill.

“When I was younger, being a nobody, kinda being the black sheep ... I wanted to be somebody,” he said. “I wanted to be able to live okay, not struggle for money. I wanted to be able to help out my family.”

Making the dream happen took intensive trial-and-error. Each candle’s scent is dictated by the precise amount of fragrance oil – too much or too little and the end product can be a dud. Over the months, Mingarelli slowly perfected each variety, producing his own recipe book he keeps closely guarded.

Then came the question of which wax to use. Mingarelli said he chose soy because it burns cleanly indoors – as opposed to the paraffin wax found within industrial competitors, which leaves soot marks and can be unhealthy to ingest.

The candles – square and wide-set – pop with color, running the gamut of the spectrum. With effort, Mingarelli began to show them off at craft fairs and making a name for himself, eventually gaining spot on the year-round circuit Joyce’s Craft Shows. He kicked-off the business in earnest a year ago, launching a website and stocking the shelves of local cafes and stores.

These days, Mingarelli still pours and mixes the wax in his basement, tending to trees and yards during the day. He enlists his mother, an artist herself who suffers from multiple sclerosis, to cut the wicks.

He’s soon to roll out a new brand name: Candletree. And said he has his eyes on a new creative challenge: soap-making. It’s not something he’s experienced in, but that’s hardly an obstacle.

For Mingarelli, pouring time and money into a candle business was not exactly an obvious path. But it was a risk worth taking, he said – and one that others can do, too.

“I think a lot of people are creative in their own way,” he said. “Either they hide it or they don’t want to do anything about. It’s always separate, like: ‘You’re a tree person, and that’s it.’ I think everyone has a talent in something.”