Her candle factory in Mooreville was completely gutted in a fire early Tuesday morning. Mooreville firefighters, along with help from other volunteer departments, fought the blaze from around 2 a.m. until 9 a.m.
Mooreville Fire Chief Ron White said the building was half-burnt by the time they arrived on the scene and was fully consumed by later in the morning. The remains were still flaring up Tuesday afternoon.
"I do not know at this time what caused the fire," said Neal. "Our factory is a total loss. It breaks our hearts. These (12) employees have been with us for many years, and Wicks n' More is more than just a business to all of us. It is our family."
The Mooreville building served as a manufacturing plant and warehouse for Wicks n' More.
Neal said the company had just completed a large order for a chain store "after many weeks of hard work."
The order was due to ship this week, along with other orders Wicks n' More had filled from recent trade shows and markets.
The fire destroyed those orders.
In addition, Neal said the Wicks n' More retail store in The Mall at Barnes Crossing depends on the Mooreville factory for its product.
"So we have a double whammy, especially with our Christmas season just cranking up," Neal said.
Neal said the company is scrambling to find a temporary solution to manufacture its product, at least for the retail store.
"We will be meeting this week with (insurance) adjusters and inspectors to determine the cause of the fire and to discuss options we have to continue our businesses," she said. "Although right now this is overwhelming, I know that we will do all we can to bounce back and start over again."
The hand-poured candle company was founded in 1999 by Neal and her daughter, Kim Neal. For many years it operated from a large manufacturing plant in Mantachie.
The Neals sold a majority stake in the company to a Houston, Texas-based investment group in 2006. But that group liquidated the company in October 2008, blaming fewer retailers, rising fuel costs and increased raw material prices for the move.
The Neals regained control of the company in early 2009 and restarted operations in Mooreville.