Joni Poli lives a Superwoman existence. Her day job for the past 26 years has been in the Lorain County Auditor’s Office working as a real estate tax administrator. Her superhero, dream-come-true persona, however, lies with her second job owning and operating Sandstone Candle Works.
“I’ve always loved candles,” she says. “I have a closet full of them.”
However, it wasn’t until she came across a store just like it in Columbus that she was convinced to start the business.
In fact, the Columbus store became more than a vision for Poli, as the owner helped her with training and getting started by teaching her methods and introducing store policies and procedures. Poli refers to her store as a “partner” in a group of stores led by the Columbus store owner. Together, they collaborate on Facebook, share ideas and promote each other’s events.
A native of Amherst, Poli graduated from Amherst schools and Lorain County Community College. “I’ve always loved the downtown area and knew that someday I’d open a business here.”
Poli didn’t just desire space in the city’s beautiful historic district. She had her eyes on a downtown tavern, an old-world-style bar, and she was willing to wait to get it. “I watched it for a while and ended up renting from a friend who bought this building,” she says.
Today at Sandstone Candle Works, Poli offers more than 120 single-scent, off-the-shelf candles, as well as 15 to 20 sugar scrubs, body sprays, spa salts, lotions and soaps. What differentiates her products from those offered elsewhere is customer involvement. Here, customers have the option to mix and match scents to create a custom product.
“We have a clipboard with listings of scents, including what scents work best together, and we have oils behind the bar,” Poli says. “Customer select a jar and product and then may choose up to three scents to create their unique products.”
The outcome is a very hands-on procedure with buyers sniffing and selecting oils and watching as Poli and her staff fill jiggers and pour in hot wax. The entire procedure takes about 1.5-2 hours. During that time customers may go shopping, enjoy lunch in the area or return the following day to pick up their products.
Developing this process led to other opportunities for the store. Poli has hosted fall candle-making classes (and plans to do more). Families have held birthday parties in her back room, where children create flameless versions with smelly jelly and make crafts.
Poli also has collaborated with neighboring Puffers Flowers, creating floral and candle centerpieces, held beer tasting events with Elevator Brewing and conducted a cupcakes and candles class with Little Devil Cupcakery.