A tranquil oasis from the world outside is just what Syracuse entrepreneur Youlanda Johnson created for her guests to experience at The Candle Bar by Cocoas Candles.

The online luxury fragrance and candle boutique found a homebase at its newly-opened brick-and-mortar at 2223 South Salina St. in Syracuse’s Sankofa District. TCB, a Black and woman-owned business, held its official grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony in June.

“I think any new business that you bring into this community is going to be an asset because it creates opportunities for people in the area,” Johnson said. “It’s always nice to see – for them – a face that looks like theirs. If I can do it, then they can do it, too.” 

Upon entry into The Candle Bar, guests are greeted with an infusion of lush fragrances – all made from natural ingredients – emerging from an abundance of body and household essentials. These items include candles, sprays, body butters and balms.

With candles stacked neatly atop one another and multi-scented spray bottles displayed in rows from eucalyptus, honeydew, ginger, hibiscus, and an abundance of other scents fused together, as far as the eye can see.

Guests have compared its likeness to household corporate brands like Bath & Body Works, Johnson said. She aspires for her self-funded business’s products to be featured in national stores. 

A previous entrepreneur of Hot Cocoas Beauty Supply Store and former director of minority affairs for the City of Syracuse, Johnson crafted the idea of The Candle Bar by Cocoas Candles during the pandemic. At the time she began experimenting with candles and body scrubs as a cathartic method in response to the impact of the global pandemic.

A self-proclaimed candle-lover and avid patron of buying candles, Johnson sparked an interest in creating her own candles.

During a Facebook Live, her products began to gain traction among her viewers who inquired about the homemade products.

“I had no idea it would turn into a business,” Johnson said. “All of our scents are signature scents. We try to do things totally different from any other candle company. All of our products are luxury products. We usually do a mixture of our own oils to create the names and everything for our products.”

Johnson began selling products online and eventually started vending at events out of her Cocoas Candles van. While working full-time for the city and operating her own business, the idea of owning another retail store was not something Johnson had planned for – but as her product inventory began to outgrow the space in her home, she was presented with the opportunity by a local community member to move into the vacant shop in Sankofa District. 

Having grown up in the Sankofa District and owning a prior business in the area, the neighborhood is “very dear to me,” Johnson said.

Her initial reluctance of not wanting to accept the offer to take over the space was eventually altered. Within a month she curated the relaxing atmosphere, incorporating her skill sets and prior knowledge in marketing, management, retail, and merchandising.

The atmosphere in TCB is “a combination of the different scents when you come in here and we try to provide an experience for people,” Johnson said.

TCB serves as a multi-purpose communal space for residents to hold intimate gatherings such as candle-making parties, workshops, baby showers and networking events, just to list a few. The venue is also used as a place for other local ventures to promote their business.

“It’s a good way to bring people out of the house and have something positive to do,” Johnson said, adding that she wants TCB to be a welcoming place of privacy and security for guests who enter through its doors.

Johnson will continue to participate in vending opportunities, selling products at local events, and traveling, she said. 

To shop TCB products and for business hours, visit its official website at www.cocoascandles.net You can also find and keep up with TCB’s latest updates on Tik Tok and Instagram


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