Candles Light the Way

Middle Davids Artisan Candles

Writer  /  Frieda Dowler
Photographer  /  Chris Williams

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 10.32.44 AMMiddle Davids Artisan Candles shop might have been named David and Son Artisan Candles, but it wouldn’t sound as unique, and a shop so interesting deserves a catchy name.

Owner Dan Catlin’s middle name is David, same as his father Arthur’s middle name, hence the name Middle Davids. Both have become middlemen providing fundraising opportunities with their candles for kids desiring to go on school or church trips but who can’t afford the cost. Arthur is a retired pastor and son Dan is an active pastor. You could also say both are middlemen for helping people get to know God.

Hobby Turns Helpful
The business was born from a hobby 40 years ago in Arthur’s basement in the Chicago area as he filled a need with his candle making abilities. He helped kids from his church go on a mission trip with a fundraiser using the candles. He believed these trips for kids would be a life changer, but their involvement with generating the funds would add value to the trip’s experience.

Dan and his wife Tauria met at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, not realizing they were only 50 miles apart while growing up in the Chicago area. After their stint with the Navy in Rhode Island and corporate jobs in Chicago and Indianapolis, they ventured into entrepreneurship in 2007, desiring to pursue their ideals of intermingling work and living life. They pastor a small house church in Franklin, so as the need for income grew, so did their business of candle making. In 2009, they opened Middle Davids Artisan Candles marked by a red and white striped awning in the Wigwam Building at 152 E. Jefferson St., Franklin.

From the beginning, the goal was to create a quality candle product from a renewable resource. The wax is from soy, a local and sustainable crop, and the wicks are cotton, also from a sustainable resource. They use premium fragrances and essential oils from an Indiana fragrance company and a high-quality glass, also reusable so they give a store credit for returning the jar that the candles come in.

They make each candle by hand, not a machine. Jars are lined up on a large wooden surface; a wooden stay holds wicks upright across the top of the jar, and scented hot wax is poured carefully into each jar. “We’re all about doing the right thing, not necessarily the easy thing,” says Dan as the production coordinator.

“Our fundraisers make more money per item for the student than other fundraisers, and we deliver a quality product that people will use,” Dan says. He states the popularity of candles but points to the uniqueness of theirs. “They are 100 percent made in the USA, have a custom label and are priced the same or less than the big name candle companies.” Their most popular candle this season is Autumn Harvest.

During two weeks in September, they made 4,000 candles for fundraisers including church mission trips, school bands and choirs and Washington, D.C., trips for middle schoolers. Not every season is this busy which caused them to consider carrying art as an additional stream of income.

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The Added Value of Quality Art
Moving into their storefront in 2009 allowed them to have a retail center. They sought independent artists to represent with one-of-a-kind items that you won’t find in big box stores.

As curator of the art, Tauria seeks variety from the artists. In their tiny shop, they represent 30 artists with a variety of art: pottery, jewelry, paintings, fabric, wood, paper and glass to name a few. All the artists are from the U.S. with 61 percent from Indiana and 30 percent of those from Johnson County. You’ll always find a unique gift item for someone special, and if you can’t find exactly what you want, most of the artists are willing to customize something.

A gift box is always included.

Tauria, a weaver, skillfully turns bamboo yarn into beautiful scarves. During slower times in the shop, you can find her in the front of the store working on her loom.

When Dan and Tauria opened their storefront in Franklin, they desired to become a part of a community where they could safely raise their three daughters, bike to work and know people in the area. They aspire to live in a way that makes getting up each day worth it and to know they are contributing to others in a positive way.

“For centuries, candles have been a source of light, and our goal is not only to share the candles that we create but also to add a little light to our community,” Dan says.

You can learn more about their products at middledavids.com.

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