“Kinda industrial, kinda like Alice in Wonderland,” I am told.
Okay, yeah. I get it.
Maybe also kind of Stevie Nicks with the large number of sparkly products in rich, deep colors of wine, gold and black. Toss in the pot den/man cave feel, a large “tree” made out of distressed metal wrapped in twinkly lights and, if you can believe it, some of the most renowned fragrance brands in the world: Diptyque, Trapp, Lladró, Molton Brown, Byredo and more. Rhiannon would so dig this place.
Nope. Not a perfumery.
“I call it the largest candle store in the world until somebody tells me otherwise,” Anthony Carro, 51, owner of Candle Delirium, tells me with a hearty, infectious laugh. To hear how he began, and still grows, his unique business is to understand that, in selling wax with wicks, it’s not just the flame of continual inspiration that’s required, it also takes lots of chutzpah.
Since 2003, Carro has brightened the lives and homes of the hoi polloi and celebrities alike, though he asks me not to name the names he’s named. “This is Hollywood. Everyone shops here,” he said.
Flashback to early 90s New York, when his retail dream ignited. No such place existed, Carro said. “Nothing like this,” gesturing to his emporium.
The idea of a candle store was, and, frankly still is, old-fashioned. “Back then you had to go to some grandma store to find tapers. Then you’d have to go to Barneys or Neiman’s or Saks to buy something a little more luxurious,” Carro said.
No matter the synonym – votives, tea lights, pillars – Carro felt drawn to candles like a moth to a flame. A business name brainstorming session with his then-boyfriend, now hubby, at their Idyllwild vacation home led to Candelirium. Well, it flickered in the right direction, anyway. “Delirious,” Carro remembered, “that’s what I wanted.”
The right match struck when Candle Delirium emerged. “I had a vision of coming in and being, like,” Carro gazed about, “’What? This is all candles?’ People come in and do what you did.”
I laughed because he’s right. When I walked into his store my mouth fell open. I couldn’t quite believe how different and inviting the place is.
“I still hear it every day,” Carro smiled.
His biggest challenge to overcome was getting product. “Begging and fighting, screaming and pleading, having the people come in. The presidents of [candle] companies.” But, Carro continued, “I don’t take no for an answer. I’m from New York.”
Persistence pays off, yet fame opens doors. “My best friend’s boyfriend” — late megastar makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin — “was always given product for free to burn at makeup and photo shoots. He was getting products to give [his celebrity clients, people like Madonna and Jennifer Aniston.) “So [he helped me] to get the different lines. And once you get one, then you get the other.”
Yet some brands were a slow burn to secure. “I still couldn’t get Diptyque until Kevin. Took eight years to get them.”
Without hesitation Carro says he derives the most satisfaction from “the creating.”
“I like being the buyer, the visuals, doing new lines,” he said. Indeed, his own brand Delirium (with the R backwards) offers signature scents like fig and anise, firewood and whiskey, and the best-selling suede and smoke. “All poured into a smoky gray vessel adorned with a silver embossed snuff lid,” per his website.
You may ask yourself…who buys candles? “More straight guys than anybody ever thinks. Especially if they’re single,” Carro said in his warm New York accent. Candles “are romantic and guys want stuff to smell good.”
The man-friendly angle returns us to the one-of-a-kind retail experience Carro created. “Another thing in doing the store,” he explained. “I wanted it to be masculine. A guy feels comfortable coming in here.” He is proud of that. “People always think [my customers are] women and gay guys. And it’s not.”