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Cardinal Candle Co. celebrates anniversary amid pandemic

NILES — On April 2, 2020, Jill Chamberlain was a bundle of emotions. She flung between panic and overwhelming excitement as she prepared to launch her new business, Cardinal Candle Co. On top of opening her business to the world for the first time, Jill was also celebrating her mother’s birthday — the first one since her death the year before.

“I knew her birthday would be a hard day going forward, and I wanted to take something that would be hard and make it into something positive,” Jill said. “I thought this would be something positive that could honor her on her birthday.”

One year later, Jill, and her husband, Louie, both of Niles, are celebrating one year of business selling artisanal candles and wax melts. After opening in the middle of a global pandemic, the couple said they are happy to have made it to their first anniversary.

“It’s crazy to look back at this pandemic and think something positive came from it,” Jill said with a smile. “We made it through.”

“[The year] went by fast,” Louie added. “Through word of mouth, the business just kept growing, and growing.”

To Jill, Cardinal Candle Co. is more than a business — it is a way to keep her mother’s memory close.

Jill’s mother, Kathy Sieradzki, died in April 2019 after a battle with Lewy Body Dementia.  Not only did Jill choose to launch on her mother’s birthday, but the name itself is also a reference to Sieradzki’s love of birds. Her mother also loved both candles and arts and crafts, and Jill believes her mom would be “thrilled” to see her daughter succeed as a candle maker.

“My mom was always a fan of candles or anything that smelled good,” Jill said. “She was extremely crafty.”

The tributes to loved ones do not end at the company’s name. On each candle’s label are two cardinals, one representing Jill’s mother and one representing Louie’s father, Larry, who the couple lost in 2009.

“He really liked birds and everything about them,” Louie said of his late father. “He just loved the outdoors.”

“So, did my mom,” Jill chimed in. “They say cardinals signify that a loved one is near. I think they both would be very happy, with him loving the birds and my mom loving the crafts.”

Despite Jill’s long-held love of all things scented, she and Louie never expected to find themselves candle makers. Previously, the couple worked as furniture sellers. When Jill brought the idea of pivoting to making candles and wax melts to her husband, she said Louie looked at her like she was crazy.

Still, the couple dove into the venture with both feet — while still working their full-time jobs and trying to stay afloat in the middle of a pandemic.

“It was scary because with COVID and everything, we weren’t sure we were going to make it,” Jill said. “But it’s been a lot of fun, and we’ve done well.”

“It was a big transition,” Louie added. “But we try to keep a good quality product, and I think that has shown in how we have been able to grow and grow. We try to keep ourselves open to ideas and try to think outside of the box.”

These days, Jill and Louie sell 67 scents of candles and wax melts and can be found at the Market Place in Niles and through their website, cardinalcandlecompany.com. When farm and artisan market season starts up again, the couple looks forward to presenting their goods at New Buffalo’s Skip’s European Market and other area markets. Eventually, they would like to branch into stores.

Having survived the first year in business during a global pandemic, Jill is confident only good things lie ahead of Cardinal Candle Co.

“We are just so excited to have made it through our first year,” she said.

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