LUVERNE — Jesse Booker had dabbled in candle making as a hobby for several years, offering them as homemade gifts to family and friends.
Then, when he was suddenly faced with lots of free time at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, he and his partner, Shawna Marshall, began ramping up production of their 100% soy-based candles and wax melts.
“It just started in our garage,” Marshall said with a laugh. “Now we have our candles in four different shops — it’s really blown up in a matter of months.”
With the success of their hobby-based venture, the couple is now opening their own retail location in downtown Luverne. Vasshaus, which is a combination of the Swedish word for reed and the German word for house, was a word Booker — semi-fluent in German — suggested, and Marshall said it sounded like the perfect combination of casual and elegance.
Thus far, they have developed a year-round collection of 15 different scented candles and wax melts, with 10 additional scents in their seasonal collections. All of the products are soy-based, which Marshall touts as clean-burning and environmentally friendly.
While Booker concentrates on the science of making candles, Marshall adds the creativity. She researches scents and combinations of scents and creates the blends, and they both hand pour the candles. They currently offer jar candles in 3.5-ounce and 9-ounce glass jars, while the wax melts are available for purchase in 2-ounce tins.
“As we move through the year, we will have larger candles,” shared Marshall, adding that they also plan to add votive candles to their product line.
In keeping with the environmentally friendly focus, Vasshaus Candle Co. also plans to implement a recycling program. If people return their candle jars and tins, they can get a discount on their next purchase.
“We can clean it all out and reuse it,” Marshall said.
Vasshaus Candle Co. will open at 11 a.m. Thursday in the Mall on Main, 219 E. Main St., with a ribbon-cutting ceremony kicking off a three-day grand opening celebration that wraps up on Saturday with door prizes, select sales and coupon offerings.
“It will be a pretty awesome thing, I think,” Marshall said. “We just have a lot of work to get there.”
Their shop was previously occupied by a clothing store, and Marshall said they’ve been working not only on their storefront display, but on setting up their workspace in the back as well.
“The location is a good size for what we want to do,” she said, adding that eventually they would like to offer classes in candle making through community education.
With two young children together — Julien, 4 and Avery, 1 — and Booker’s three children who visit for the summer — Cayden, 12, Natalya, 10, and Colton, 8 — Marshall said the store will also include a kiddie corner so they can be with their kids while they work.
Marshall is excited about the location, which is under the same roof as Reborn Home Furnishings.
“Our candles look great with Reborn’s (merchandise),” she said. “Customers can stop at both stores. They complement each other really well.”
In addition to their Luverne retail store, Marshall said they will continue to sell Vasshaus Candle Co. products at Serenity Gifts in Worthington, Wildflowers in Luverne, Mo’ Than Antiques in Currie, and Haisch Pharmacy in Canton, South Dakota.
“It’s been a lot of time, it’s been a lot of work; it’s also a project of passion,” Marshall said. “We enjoy it — it doesn’t seem like work when you’re doing something you enjoy.”
A Sioux Falls, South Dakota native, Marshall moved to Luverne eight years ago. She works full-time at Southwestern Mental Health Center, and is a member of the Rotary Club. Booker, meanwhile, moved to Luverne six years ago from Tennessee. He works full-time at Raven in Sioux Falls, and also teaches classes at Luverne Street Music.
“We love Luverne, and we’re happy to become a part of (the community) in this way as well,” Marshall said.
With their busy schedules, Marshall said her mother will help out in the store initially. Eventually, they hope to hire an employee.
Vasshaus Candle Co. will be open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays. Marshall cautioned the hours may be reduced during the first month as she rearranges her work schedule.