By Stephen J. Kotz
With gift shops lining the main streets of East End villages and hamlets, Brittany Torres, a 29-year-old Southampton entrepreneur and owner of the start-up business, Hamptons Handpoured, knows she has entered a crowded field. But she is confident the handcrafted candles she is making with essential oils and other, high-quality natural ingredients, will soon find a niche on store shelves—and better yet, a place in customers’ homes.
Ms. Torres, who says she has always enjoyed the ambience provided by a scented candle, came upon her business idea by something of happenstance after she first envisioned marketing a line of t-shirts.
“I was very sick a few years ago, and I found myself looking for holistic ways to feel better,” she said. That search led her to take classes on essential oils and aromachology, which studies the effects of scents on people, and to eventually start experimenting with her own scented candles. Happy with the results, she decided to leave the t-shirts to others and concentrate on candles.
“The main difference from the candles I see in shops out here is I don’t think there are any candles made in the Hamptons,” she said. “And every one of my candles is handcrafted, right down to the choosing the glassware and the label to the ingredients.”
Ms. Torres works at Therapy Life & Style, clothing and accessories shop owned by Kelly Kirkpatrick at 38 Main Street in Southampton Village. Ms. Torres said Ms. Kirkpatrick has encouraged her own business, going so far as to let her make her candles in a small studio behind the shop.
And she has inherited an entrepreneurial streak from her parents, Bob and Alanna Torres, who have run several businesses, including, she said, the first VHS video store in Queens.
“They have always supported my creativeness and ideas,” she said of her parents, adding that after a short stint “in a corporate setting, I realized it wasn’t working for me.”
Ms. Torres and her boyfriend, Jason Lucas, make the candles in small batches, with each of the six kettles they use holding four pounds of wax and yielding a dozen candles each.
“I use both essential oils and fragrance oils in my candles,” Ms. Torres said, “and they are made with clean burning soy wax and cotton wicks.”
So far, Ms. Torres has named each of her scents after an East End village or hamlet and has developed the scent based on her own impressions and memories of each.
Her Bridgehampton candle, for instance, evokes her memories of babysitting for a family in that hamlet. “My memory is of big grassy fields and I would take the kids to the beach,” she said. The candle has a “bright, brassy, citrus scent,” she added.
Her Sag Harbor candle has a “musky, deep scent” to evoke its many restaurants, while East Hampton is one of luxury. “One of the fragrances I used I called cashmere,” Ms. Torres said. “I was thinking of all the high end stores in the village. It is also a fruity, deep, exotic scent.”
Her Montauk candle has hints of sandalwood and spicy, orange. “Sandalwood is a very grounding scent. Whenever I go to Montauk I feel at peace there,” she said. “And yet there is a liveliness that comes in the summer, so I added some spice.”
Southampton has a clean, crispy scent evocative of fresh linens, and Westhampton Beach’s lavender based scent is calming.
Another three scents will be unveiled in the coming months, Amagansett, Water Mill, and Quogue.
The 12-ounce candles sell for $28 and for now are available at Therapy Life & Style. By next month, Ms. Torres hopes to have her online store, at HamptonsHandpoured.com.
She also said she is aware that small locally owned shops tend to suffer at the hands of online retailers, so she plans to work to promote local shops as well as offer her own wares.
“I’ve learned a lot about small business and helping people,” she said. “Candles will bring wellness to people’s lives, but the greater thing is to connect with the community.”