A new downtown Winter Garden business is working to help the community not only generate older memories but also create new ones of their own.
Artifact Candle Foundry, which opened Nov. 16 on Tremaine Street, is a do-it-yourself candle-making experience owned and operated by siblings Sean Kowalski and Heather Boadella.
The DIY experience offers custom-scented, homemade candles with more than 60 premium fragrances. The candles are premium quality, decorative, 100% cotton wick, free of harmful contaminants, strongly scented and slow-burning.
The Winter Garden location is the second to open; the first opened in 2019 in Thornton Park.
“We chose the name Artifact, because an artifact is something that’s created, withstands time and is sentimental or important to you,” Boadella said. “Our logo represents four pieces with the top being the flame, the bottom being the wax and the pouring on the sides are everything coming together with your community.”
The siblings grew up in the Melbourne Beach area and lived in Central Florida most of their lives. The two spent the last 15 years in the Thornton Park and downtown Orlando area.
Kowalski’s background is in health care sales, although he hopes Artifact eventually will become a full-time gig, while Boadella is a real-estate attorney.
Boadella said she always dreamed of finding something she was passionate enough about to create a small business out of, and after seeing a similar concept in the Midwest about four years ago, she knew she had to share the idea with her brother.
“I just had so much fun doing it, and I realized there was nothing like this in Central Florida,” she said.
Although the idea quickly blossomed into a brick-and-mortar store in downtown Orlando, the business faced challenges from the onset with the unexpected pandemic. The business was closed for the majority of its first year and didn’t fully open until 2021.
Although the two were not actively searching for a second location, when the space became available in Winter Garden, they knew it was an opportunity they couldn’t pass up.
“For us, just as a small business, the walkability of a small town or a shopping area is really important,” Kowalski said. “Thornton is awesome, but all the traffic that comes in. … I think when we got here we were really attracted to the mix of people here and the demographic. The city of Winter Garden does such an incredible job of supporting local small businesses and really gets behind them. They’re very selective, and they have to feel like it’s going to bring something beneficial to the community.”
Artifact is a custom scent bar with a scent focus. The business offers 65 grab-and-go candles on the wall for immediate purchase. Everything Artifact sells is poured directly in house with melters and fragrance oils. The jars and scents change seasonally, and for those who do not prefer candles, custom reed blends for reed diffusers are available.
The siblings want the customer to drive the experience, with as much help or as little guidance as they like or need.
Behind the scenes, the organization also creates wholesale candles, privately created candles for companies and even small-batch candles for businesses.
“What makes us unique is that you’re truly creating something of quality and value that you’re going to take into your home and enjoy,” Boadella said. “I liked that it’s something where you could sit and spend time with your friends or your family — and you’re actively engaged. You’re creating your own unique scent, you’re spending time with somebody, you’re putting your phone down, and you’re reconnecting and making something you will actually use.”
Not only can companies come in for team-building or groups during the holidays, but also couples on dates or even families and friends searching for a new and unique experience.
“I think the obvious customer people would think we target is women, but even as a male, people associate scent so strongly with memories,” he said. “It’s cool to see people come in and truly be in the moment with their loved ones or to find a scent that brings them back to a time in their life.”
In addition, the siblings believe Artifact will complement other already-established small businesses in the area.
“We’re not competing directly with them, because the business is more experience-driven here,” Kowalski said. “Customers can go and enjoy the other shopping and the other restaurants. The candles take two hours to cure, so we always encourage people to grab an ice cream, enjoy a drink or shop around.”
In the future, the siblings would like to expand, but they would do so selectively. With the company being a family-owned business, everyone has to be on board.
“We prefer to be in something that feels like a close-knit community so we’re really trying to focus on those types of situations,” Boadella said. “You can build a million cool developments and strip malls, but they never have the same charm and character as historic areas.”
As far as hopes for the new Winter Garden location, Boadella said the two want to continue to get to know more of the community and their small-business neighbors.
“We hope to partner with other local small businesses,” she said. “We try to find out what’s important to the communities that we’re in so that we can support them and do our part.
The new location plans to host an official grand opening event in the near future.