Candle Making in the Desert? It’s Possible

The Founders of Virgin River Naturals welcome me into their Kayenta abode. It smells like heaven. Virgin River Naturals has created something unique, and intentional.  The only thing that is missing is a good glass of wine, which J* carefully pours into my glass. I’ve discovered ultimate relaxation.  As we drive to their studio down the road, I am in awe of what they’ve created.  I peruse their line… candles are waiting to be filled assembly style, and different iterations of scents are waiting to be sampled. As J+K prep for the Las Vegas Market, I ask them questions about their progression from doing markets for brand awareness, to now selling in 52 states and abroad, all out of a quaint studio.

Virgin River Naturals has created something unique, and intentional. As I peruse their line, Candles are waiting to be filled assembly style, and different iterations of scents are waiting to be sampled.”

Q: What was your inspiration to start the line aptly named Virgin River Naturals & what is your inspiration?

A. As New England natives, our first visit to the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park was in 1996, after a business trip to Las Vegas. A few years later we moved from New England to Southern California, primarily Palm Springs and Los Angeles. We had a busy, successful interior design business with a flagship retail showroom and design studio all under one roof. In addition to our architectural and interior design work, we also designed and created a modern bespoke furniture line, and later built our own furniture manufacturing company. We grew the furniture line to a point that we had the opportunity to license the collection to a furniture manufacturing company in Canada. During the housing market crash of 2018, that company closed their business and we gained the rights to our line back. By this time, we were working primarily out of our Los Angeles showroom, and were connected with some of the best craftspeople in Southern California, and we could design and make anything. One thing that we noticed (other than the sheer amount of celebrities that would enter the store daily), was that virtually everyone that came to our showroom would walk out the door with a small gift bag, and always a candle. Our desire to create our own bespoke candle line began there, but it took a few years before we could take action on it. In the meantime, in order to round out the offerings of our lifestyle showroom, we would go to the market in Las Vegas at least once, but usually twice a year. After each trip to Las Vegas, as a treat to relax and unwind, we would always go spend a few days in Springdale, Utah, the town at the entrance of Zion, where the Virgin River has sculpted the landscape for millions of years, hence the name Virgin River Naturals. We had been working with a design group in Palm Springs to create everything from logos, labels, colors, website, etc since 2018, and when COVID-19 broke out in early 2020, most of our jobs came to a screeching halt, so we decided that it was the perfect time to switch gears and focus on the candle and fragrance line full time. We also thought it would be a fun adventure and a good brand story to be located in a town along the Virgin River, hence our move to St George, Utah. 

Q: How would you describe your line of scents?

A. Inspired by the beauty of nature, our bespoke natural aromatherapy candles are hand-poured in small batches in our Southwestern Utah studio, featuring a proprietary blend of soy wax, coconut wax and bees wax, with natural cotton wicks. Our luscious fragrances are crafted with a blend of natural essential oils and premium natural fragrance oils. Our fragrances from earthy to floral and everywhere in between. We use our travels as inspiration for our fragrances, and we custom blend from there to evoke a fragrance that can capture that memory. One of our top sellers, High Desert, is inspired by trips to the high desert in Southern California to climb the rocks at Joshua Tree National Park and the nearby iconic Pappy & Harriets Pioneertown Palace, where we would always stop for chili after a hike, or go there just to see a music show and perhaps spend the night at the historic Pioneertown Motel. Wildflowers, another customer favorite, is inspired by a mountain biking trip in the Colorado mountains, were the sides of the hill were completely covered in a bouquet of wildflowers, and the smell was as thrilling as the bike ride. Namaste, was created after a power flow Vinyasa yoga class, where our instructor used a combination of Patchouli and Pink Grapefruit essential oils to rub on our sore shoulders at the end of the class, while resting in savasana. I could go on and on about the fragrance names and how they are the story of our lives, but you get the point. 

Q: What do you like most about this industry?

A. One of the things that we like the most about our industry is that all of the products are UPS shippable. In our former lives, dealing with furniture and large items, shipping was always the hardest part of the process. In the very rare event that a customer receives something and there is a damage, we can issue a replacement, and they will receive it in just days. In the furniture world, it could take months to replace a damaged item, if it were even available at all. Another thing that we love about this industry is that we can change things very quickly. If we change a label, update graphics or add a new product, items can be photographed quickly, and updated across all of our various sales platforms. This is far different from staging a living room, dining room, or bedroom for a photo shoot which requires a lot of advance planning, a large space and a full crew to move things around. 

In addition to our regular line, I love the added creativity that we get with our Private Label Program. The program was created to meet the customized needs of spas, hotels, resorts, boutiques, museums, and destination gift stores. This program allows customers to sell custom branded keepsake products using our high quality room sprays and our signature candles, hand-crafted with our proprietary soy wax, coconut wax, and bees wax blend.

Q. Tell us about your progression from selling at local markets to now having a sales team, and employees across the USA?

A. Our original intention was to be primarily a wholesale company, with some retail sales filtering in through local or online platforms. When I was 21, I was the Assistant to VP of Sales & Marketing at a jewelry and giftware company. While working a trade show in San Diego, our local representative worked the booth with me, and we have been in touch even after all of these years. The sales rep now has a huge team of representative and a full time trade showroom in Las Vegas. When I first reached out to him about Virgin River Naturals, he had some apprehension about bringing the line into their mix, and had a lot of question that we could not answer at that time. Based on that feedback, we felt that we needed to work on canvasing key cities and stores that we felt would be a good fit for our line, and established and serviced our own house accounts to test things out and gain some valuable experience. One of those baby steps before reaching back out to the rep group, was to participate as a vendor with the Saint George Market, a stylish, highly curated pop up market event, held twice a year in historic downtown St George. The lessons that we learned doing the shows and working with house accounts has proven to be helpful as we can share our first-hand knowledge and insight with our 16 road reps, office admin team and retailers, on how to be successful selling the line.  

Q. What would you tell people about starting a business in the great state of Utah?

A. It has been relatively easy establishing a business in the state of Utah. Other than our desire to be located by the Virgin River for the scenic vistas and for branding reasons, we felt that there was good opportunity for growth and staffing. With several universities located in the greater St George area, we understood that it would be easier to find ambitious nice young folks to work as our business grew, versus trying to find workers in Palm Springs where it is an endless pool party, or in Los Angeles where everyone seems to have some other higher aspirations. Also, most of the work involved in setting up a business in Utah is done online and it is all very simple and streamlined. 

Q. Where can we find your heavenly goods?

A. Our candles and home fragrances can be found in stores, boutiques and gift shops all over the state of Utah. In the St George area, you will find a vast assortment at our hometown store Datura in the Kayenta Art Village in Ivins and downtown at MoFACo on Main Street. With the help of an amazing sales representative, we have been expanding our reach throughout the metro Salt Lake City region. And while it is always changing, we are constantly updating a complete list of dealers on our website.

To peruse their heavenly scents, Virgin River Naturals can be found at

Editors Notes: 

The High Desert room spray is a favorite of the Catori team

* J&K prefer to remain anonymous 

Catori Utah

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