OTR pop-up shop will sell a unique Valentine's Day gift: Handmade candles

CINCINNATI -- We might not always conceptualize Valentine's Day as a consumerist holiday in the vein of Christmas and Black Friday, but it is: Americans spend about $18 billion on V-Day gifts every year. For a business that can tap into the romantic zeitgeist, February is a great month.

But how does a small business owner create a niche amid the onrushing tide of mass-produced flowers, chocolates and perfumes?

"Don't get me wrong -- it was a struggle in the beginning," said Erikka Gray, owner of District 78 Luxury Candles

But she found a way, and she hopes her weekend pop-up shop on Vine Street will inspire Cincinnatians to get their sweethearts -- or themselves -- a handmade, heartfelt gift.

Gray will be selling her wares at 1327 Vine St. from noon to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Gray's first candles were the ones she made for guests at her wedding, and she still sells the exact blend of fragrances she used then: Grapefruit and sage, which became the first of her 10 business's signature scents.

"(My wedding guests) had more requests for me, like, ‘Hey, do you have one that smells like this or one that smells like that?'" she said. Her company blossomed from there.

All 10, plus three limited special edition scents, will be on sale on Vine Street over the weekend. If you want custom candles for your own wedding or another special event, Gray makes those, too.

Candles are for everyone, of course, but Gray said she was especially proud to be a woman business owner chasing her dream. She hopes she can connect with other small businesses in the Cincinnati area and create a supportive network of female entrepreneurs.

"It's something that's definitely important to me," she said. "Being a women-owned business and very proud, we just want to have that kinship with other women as well."

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