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Local Nurse Turns Longtime Hobby Into Cottage Business
candle biz
Betty Larrabee is shown with a sample of one of her distinct in design and smell Cloverland candles. Photo Contributed

Betty Larrabee isn’t looking to retire on her handmade creations, but it did serve as inspiration to start her website. The Oakdale mother, grandmother and nurse practitioner by trade is both the hands and the heart behind Cloverland Soap and Candle.

A business which she began almost unintentionally over 20 years ago is now gaining a lot of Social Media attention as well as area storefront exposure.

“Initially I was just selling to friends and people at work,” Larrabee shared, noting that she began the hobby of candle and soap making close to 25 years ago.

It was her love for candles and fragrant soap which got her started. She explained that she often had a hard time finding strong candles that would burn long and that she was happy with. The nurse-by-day, crafter-by-night shared she began with paraffin and graduated to soy.

“Soy is a soap and water clean-up,” she said. “That way if kids knock them over the candles clean up. Soy is clean burning. Each candle will burn for about 88 hours.

“A soy wax has a memory,” she continued. “When you burn a candle, you need to burn it three hours for the first time because that’s the width diameter of the mason jar.”

Looking to the World Wide Web to educate herself on the varying steps to making a viable candle as well as soap, Larrabee learned technique as well as all the ins and outs to streamlining her production.

“I like soap,” she said. “I just couldn’t find soaps I wanted.”

Candles which originated in apothecary jars eventually morphed to mason jars, a container she has remained with since.

“I didn’t want to make candles so expensive that nobody would buy them. So I came up with mason jars,” Larrabee noted. “That was before mason jars were quite as popular as they are now.”

Keeping it simple, Larrabee shared she stuck with the mason jar concept and offers one size in varying scents. The 16-ounce mason jar soy candle retails for $13.99. Her five-ounce soap bars sell for $4.50 and her “Cupcake” decorative soaps sell for $5.

All of her items are available through her website as well as sold in some shops.

“Then I have them at Mama’s Closet in downtown Oakdale,” she stated. “She asked me to bring some in. It’s all just kind of word of mouth.”

Many shoppers opt for connecting with her via website.

“I do have orders online because I do local deliveries free,” Larrabee continued, adding she offers free delivery to the Modesto, Denair, Turlock, and Oakdale areas. “I drop them off on their porch. I don’t want people to have to pay shipping.”

Described by Larrabee as a “hobby gone bad,” she shared her production area is a simple space in the corner of her family room, not too far from where her grandchildren create artwork and play as well. Producing the product in batches of one dozen at a time, she noted she makes about 50 a month in varying scents.

Storage for the product is also done at the home which has become a fragrant place with the wide variety of candles and soaps.

“It seems like I’m always making them,” Larrabee shared.

The most popular of her soap scents tend to be lavender, grapefruit mint, wild roses, spice mahogany for men and cucumber melon.

“I used to make more but I’ve narrowed them down,” the hobbyist stated.

Her most popular candle scents are cucumber melon, lavender, Egyptian amber, pineapple sage, grapefruit mint, berry vanilla, blueberry cobbler and peach cobbler.

“It’s a hobby gone bad,” she confirmed with a chuckle. “It started off as a hobby, but I get a certain sense of pleasure looking at the candles.”

Now with 20 years behind her and the product expanding its exposure, Larrabee shared it has been fun to see her creations appreciated.

“You know I kind of thought that would be cool to do (sell candles in stores),” she said, admitting to not being a salesperson or one to approach a shop owner. “That’s just not me. Things just happened word of mouth and that’s okay with me.”