Wicks n' More creators take back the reins of their candle-making company

For more information, visit www.wicksnmore.com. You can also contact the company at designerwicks@yahoo.com. The company is located on Highway 371 North in Mooreville. The retail store is open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

MOOREVILLE – The building is smaller and the employees are fewer, but the desire to succeed is as big as ever.
Beckey Neal and her daughter, Kim Neal, are back where they started 10 years ago – building a company.
The creators and founders of Wicks n’ More, the Neals have opened Designer Wicks, a hand-poured candle company that is officially a division of Wicks n’ More.
“We’ve got the fire back,” Beckey Neal said with a broad smile. “We are back in business.”
The company got a boost last summer when radio personality Rush Limbaugh mentioned the company during a broadcast. Orders poured in and the company saw demand spike.
But last fall, a Houston, Texas-based investment group that had a controlling interest in Wicks n’ More liquidated, forcing the company to close. The investment group said the economy and higher costs were the main reasons for the move.
More than 50 people lost their jobs and a $7 million business was shuttered.
But the Neals, who still had a minority stake in the business, bought back the intangible assets of the company they founded, including intellectual property rights. They opened Designer Wicks in April.
“It was disappointing to see what had happened, but we were determined to come back, and here we are,” said Beckey Neal at the company’s new facility in Mooreville, just a few miles south of the company’s old location in Mantachie.
The new facility serves as manufacturing plant, warehouse and retail store, all under one roof. The scaled-back operations have shrunk from 82,000 square feet to 6,000 square feet, and already the Neals are looking for room to grow.
A dozen people work at Designer Wicks, including the Neals, but they plan to increase that number. At its peak, Wicks n’ More employed about 80. But with a new business model, it’s unlikely the company will grow that big again.
“We didn’t know how strong a following we had, until people started calling us at home and did all sorts of things to contact us,” said Kim Neal. “It’s incredible, and we’re so thankful for our loyal customers.”
Among those loyal customers is Jim Troxler, owner of The Village Green in Tupelo. Troxler said Wicks n’ More’s was a best-seller for his store and was disappointed in the company’s liquidation.
“But,” he said, “I knew they would be back. It’s too good of a product to let die, and I couldn’t be happier. Our customers couldn’t be happier.”
The Neals said retailers like Troxler helped sustain them during a very difficult time.
“He’s like our other partner,” Beckey Neal said.
“Other companies tried to take our place, but most of the businesses we’ve talked to said they’re coming back to us, and we’re so very appreciative,” she added. “We’re just trying to get the word out that we’re back in business.”
The Neals prefer not to talk too much about what happened last fall, calling it an unfortunate event that taught them a lesson.
“We decided that we won’t cater to the large chains … we’re going to concentrate on the smaller retailers, so that we can better serve them,” Beckey Neal said. “It also allows us to be more creative.”
Among the large customers Wicks n’ More had were TJ Maxx, Dilliards and Bed Bath and Beyond. But sacrificing profit for volume is no longer an option, and the Neals say Designer Wicks is focused on helping smaller retailers succeed with them.
Wicks n’ More had some 3,000 retail accounts and the Neals are determined to win as many of them back as they can.
“We know about the realities of the economy, and that it might take a while, but we’re prepared to wait it out,” Beckey Neal said. “Small businesses are the backbone of the economy, and we think we can offer them a niche product that will help them during tough times and beyond.”
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@djournal.com.

Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal