Quiet, tree-lined Arnold Avenue, located not far from Interstate 93 near the Woburn town line is about as far from the popping flashbulbs and resplendent red carpet of The Oscars and Hollywood’s Kodak Theater as you can get without swallowing a mouthful of the North Atlantic.
While approximately 3,000 miles of roads—and an unknown quantity of tinsel and glitter—separate Reading from Hollywood, none of the nominees and presenters that walk the red carpet at the 84th Academy Awards this Sunday will be leaving without taking a sweet-smelling slice of this sylvan corner of town home with them, thanks to Leslie Gennari, owner and sole proprietor of Sweet Shoppe Candle Bakery.
What Do You Mean It's Wax?
Gennari’s candles, looking and smelling like delectable confectionary delights, will be included in the 2012 GBK Productions Annual Gift Lounge, an invitation-only event honoring 2012 Academy Awards nominees and presenters the opportunity to enjoy an elite environment with diverse services, hors d’oerves and, of course, mountains of swag, with an eye towards soliciting charitable donations for a number of GBK’s selected charities, including HOPE International and The Sugar Ray Leonard Foundation.
According to Gennari, when she first received word that GBK was interested gifting Oscar nominees with her candles, she was less than convinced the offer was on the up and up.
“When (GBK) first called me, I thought it was a scam, a joke,” she said. “I wasn’t too sure what the company was all about, so I did my research and realized they were legitimate, so I decided it would be something fun to do.”
GBK located Gennari and her candles through her website, and thought they would be something fun and different to offer celebrities. Originally, they asked Gennari to come out to California, but running Sweet Shoppe Candles, working part-time at Salon Giovanni in Bedford, not to mention a full complement of familial responsibilities, would not permit such an excursion.
She was offered the chance to send her unique candles to the left coast for inclusion in the GBK gift bags, and she jumped at the chance to share her craft with some Hollywood royalty.
“It’s fun, just to think they’ll possibly have it on their kitchen countertops,” said Gennari about giving her candles to Oscar nominees and presenters. “You know what my hope is? It’s that a celebrity will send me a tweet, maybe take a picture with the candle or even talk about it in a magazine.”
She knows full well what such an occurrence could potentially do for her business, which is entirely run in the basement of her Arnold Avenue home, and if the exposure from being included in the GBK event were to translate into a dramatic rise in business, Gennari said she is ready.
From Arnold Avenue to the Red Carpet
Gennari has resided in Reading for the past nine years after moving from Malden, and she lives with her husband Robert and their two children, Marina and Nico—all of whom pitch in with Sweet Shoppe Candles when the need arises, mostly around the holidays.
“The family helps out, especially around the holidays,” she said. “I have some friends who help with assembly and putting the pies together.”
While the business is a small, locally run venture, Gennari’s candles have been shipped as far as Italy, and routinely to go out all over the continental United States.
A graduate of Johnson & Wales College in Rhode Island, Gennari has a lifelong love of cooking, and it was during this pursuit that her love of candle making was first kindled.
While searching for a recipe for a fruit tart, she stumbled upon instructions to make a scented fruit tart candle, and thought: “that can’t be a candle, it looks to real.”
Gennari was hooked, and in 2006, turned her newfound hobby into a business.
“I was intrigued, so I ordered (the fruit tart candle) and I kind of fell in love with it,” she recalled. “I have a love for baking and cooking, so I thought this would be a fun way to bake and cook.
“Without all of the calories involved,” she laughed.
Candles for the Stars
The candles that will be included in the GBK gift bags are 16 ounces, and fashioned to look like a glass of milk with a cookie dipping in it. The scent is an especially pleasant and fragrant one, known as Anise Biscotti.
The family touch doesn’t stop with Gennari’s immediate family, as her niece, Rebecca LaPlaca, an aspiring artist and senior at Georgetown High School, designed the graphic that adorns each Oscar candle—a depiction of a storefront with a sign hanging in the window that reads: “gone to the Oscars.”
Sweet Shoppe Candles products are not only available through the company website, but also exclusively at The Hitching Post in downtown Reading. Gennari said that, as of right now, there are no plans to step up consignment sales.
“My plan is to someday open my own candle bakery,” she said. “A bakery that’s just candles, and set-up like a bakery with the display cases.”
Gennari’s Oscar candles will retail for around $16 each, and will be available at The Hitching Post after the Academy Awards, sometime next week.