Ben Schachter, who just finished his first busy holiday season as the new owner of Candlestock (alongside his wife Chrystal), remembers visiting the store started by his uncle and aunt Dennis and Barbara Moss when he was a kid.
“Like everyone, I was drawn to the big candle and told not to break off any parts of it or blow it out,” he recalls, a true born-and-bred Woodstocker’s elemental memory. “Eventually I was allowed to light it and blow it out…officially! But I’ll never forget the effect the store had on me with its rainbows of candles, the many candelabra hanging from the ceiling, the beauty and warmth of it all.”
The story behind this now-stalwart local business is prototypical of the modern town. The Mosses, Dennis and Barbara, were on their way to California in the late 1960s when they hit an ice storm while headed up the Thruway and detoured into town. They stayed on, plying their trade as candlemakers, and brought with them a continuously burning and building drip candle when they started their one room candle shop the next year, in 1970.
The Schachters have been training with the Mosses for several years and officially took over Candlestock in April…but are still working with the older couple serving as chief candlemakers…as well as the dedicated seven-member staff that have been working with the store for decades now.
“We’re keeping it in the family in more ways than one,” Ben Schachter said. “We’re all jacks of all trades now.”
He mentioned, amongst his staff, 13 year employee Denise Ryan, and longstanding candlemaker Marge Block, who’s been painting Dennis Moss’ creations for over 30 years at this point.
“I’m making candles, Chrystal’s making candles, my wife’s mother’s making candles,” he added. “We’ve got candle workshops at our home now, as well as Dennis and Barbara’s house, and I’m looking to add a candlemaking workshop section at the
Schachter said that what’s surprised him more than anything about Candlestock, since taking over its reins, was how many people have been treasuring it for years, and returning to it regularly for decades…“longer than I’ve been alive in many cases.”
“People love having unique things made with care, things that are not just a product,” he noted. “What we do here is much more of an art than a craft, and that aspect of the business has been its most interesting element, as well as its most challenging.”
Schachter added that although he wasn’t planning any major new additions to Candlestock, he did realize that he and Chrystal’s presence as owners is bound to bring a new and different energy to the venerable shop. The couple’s already thinking of new things to add in…but also checking through their ideas with Ben’s aunt and uncle at most junctures. And making sure they keep the store’s reputation as the place to go for gift-wrapping…a legacy that Barbara Moss carefully built up.
Schachter, also a leading light of Woodstock’s volunteer efforts to beautify itself, will be maintaining his “day job” as a financial analyst on Wall Street. But he’s been enjoying spending weekends and holidays working the store, or making candles on the side.
“This was our first holiday season but it felt like things were good, were just right,” he says, weaving back through the crowded rooms of the store he dreamed of living in as a younger man until he comes to that candle that meant so much to him as a boy…now well over eight feet high and three feet wide. “I hope they were good for everyone, and that what we do here continues to be good for Woodstock.”
He paused, moved a hand towards the tower of candles, then spoke again.
“Chrystal and I plan to spend the next ten years learning all we can from Uncle Dennis and Aunt Barbara,” he said. “After all, this is a family business, isn’t it?”