Editorial: Yankee Candle’s expansion a refreshing trend

  • Mike Kennealy, Housing and Economic Development Secretary, speaks to those gathered for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of Newell Brands Research and Developement facility in South Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Published: 12/20/2019 6:00:23 PM
Modified: 12/20/2019 6:00:11 PM

There was a time when this region was a manufacturing powerhouse. There were paper, textile and woolen mills, shoe, button and tool factories, and businesses galore. In turn, a thriving industrial sector created vibrant communities.

The region’s power came from its mighty rivers, fueling notable businesses like the American Writing Paper Company in Holyoke, which in the late 1800s controlled some 75 percent of the fine writing paper business in the United States. The rivers flowing through Northampton and Easthampton gave rise to many businesses, including Pro Brush, which made toothbrushes in Northampton, to companies in Easthampton that made buttons, suspenders, yarn and elastic web. Further north, Wiley & Russell Manufacturing Co. and D. B. Kellogg & Bros. Grout Brothers manufactured steam-powered automobiles in Orange.

From Northfield to Holyoke, smokestacks rose from the banks of the Connecticut River. But one by one, businesses closed their doors, as a changing economy starved many of the region’s manufacturing plants.

Midst these depressing headlines, however, one stands out as an outlier — news of a $6.5 million expansion by Yankee Candle.

Newell Brands, the parent company that owns Yankee Candle, Chesapeake Bay Candle and WoodWick, recently held a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony at its Home Fragrance Division’s new research and development lab on North Street in South Deerfield. The 20,000-square-foot lab will develop, prototype and test new candles, home fragrance and auto freshener products.

“At the end of the day, we’re the world’s largest candle company. Our ambition is to be the world’s largest fragrance company,” said Rich Wuerthele, home fragrance division CEO, mentioning the production of wax, melts, diffusers, plug-ins and sprays. He said about $300 million of the more than $1 billion the business does in sales annually comes from these products. Notably, Newell Brands also owns brands such as Sharpie, Crock-Pot, Rubbermaid and Elmer’s.

According to Research and Development Director Sam Macio, a section of the lab that has between 200 to 250 outlets will be used to test plug-in products. Staff members will monitor the items’ weight loss to determine if the proper amount of fragrance is being released. Elsewhere, employees will mix wax to make candles in a wax application lab.

In a burn room, candles will be lit to determine flame height, burn times and to ensure consistent burns. There is also an analytical lab, where Macio said candles are broken down into their compound form to better understand the materials the products are made of, and a secure storage room, among other spaces.

Since moving its operations to the region in the 1980s, Yankee Candle — which was started in 1969 by Michael Kittredge, formerly of Leverett — has bolstered the region’s economy. It’s brought in tourism and provided jobs. It’s been an economic bright spot amid a sometimes depressing economic season.

Sadly, Kittredge, who sold the business in 1998, passed away suddenly in July. His legacy, however, is still burning brightly. Those of us who live in this beautiful region know about its storied industrial past and its future development potential. It’s nice to see the world taking notice again.




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