Made in Maryland: Providing an escape, Chesapeake Bay Candles heal

Posted: 9:23 AM, Nov 20, 2017
Updated: 2018-12-12 12:24:50-05

Made in Maryland is a monthly segment by ABC 2's Cassie Carlisle, showcasing local unsung trades. If you know a company fitting this description email Cassie.Carlisle@wmar.com.

We all want an escape sometimes, from work, family, everyday stresses. 

One woman, who traveled to the United States from China, hopes to bring people peace when they come home. 

Mei Xu in Annapolis, 1994

Mei Xu found her peace when she traveled from New York to visit her then-husband in Washington D.C. 

At the time, she was working for a medical equipment company in Manhattan. 

"It's the only time, when the cool air is on your face and you smell the water. You just feel really at the best and I feel that moment is what carried us for a long time," -Mei Xu

Visiting him was an escape. She was 26-years-old and loved window shopping.

Her favorite thing was modern fashion. She noticed when she visited other levels of the department stores, it felt like going back in time.

"I was just wondering, if someone dressed in a certain way, why would they want to go back to their home which is so dark and traditional?" Xu said.

"At some point he said you know you seem to be not really enjoying the exporting of medical equipment, it's a lot of paper pushing, but you're very passionate about this discrepency between home and you know fashion, maybe you can do something with it." -Mei Xu

Mei Xu at North Carolina Gift Fair, 1994

They created Pacific Trade Inc. and tested out the North Carolina Gift Fair to see what would sell.

"It's like a yard sale, I have everything from silk flowers to music dolls that can turn. I have seat cushions for your car, because honestly I think all of them, in itself, can be a new business," she said.

The customers spoke loud and clear, they want candles. 

It became their passion. Xu and her friend from China, Richard, went to New Jersey to learn candle-making.

"When do you need to add color, at what temperature, and fragrances and UV protectors so that it does not fade, fade away the color?" She said.

Campbell's Soup Can Mei Xu and Richard used to create candles.

Richard and Mei were so excited, when they made it back to Annapolis, they wanted to get to work straight away.

The problem? Molds for the candles hadn't arrived yet.

So they improvised.

"We drank a lot of Campbell's Soup those days because we don't have any particular need beyond simple meals at that time and I said those are great! They're almost a 3 x 3 candle size!" Xu said.

First Chesapeake Bay Candle Color, Honeydew Melon, 1995

In their haste, they forgot an ingredient that blends the components of the candle.

What came out was a candle that appeared fossilized.

"Once I saw them coming out of the mold I was literally dancing with one hand, because I knew they looked very elegant and uplifting but also elevated look," Xu said.

Their signature look, one of craftsmanship, that reflects nature.

Bloomingdale's loved it too, launching the business and changing the landscape of home design, with the bright pop of color.

Chesapeake Bay Candle's Glen Burnie Factory, 2017

Chesapeake Bay Candle is still growing, first they produced overseas, then moved to Glen Burnie in 2011.

A majority of their business is hauled right out of this factory.

"Making candles is so much better than making arguments, or making enemies, you know it's... the best thing I've found for myself is being creative, surrounded by people who are so smart and passionate," Xu said.

Xu continues to create the latest fragrances that inspire thoughts of Spring, Summer, home cooked meals in the Fall and warm feelings of the holiday season.

All Made in Maryland.

Chesapeake Bay Candle Burn Test Room, Glen Burnie, 2017

"I feel there's a lot of sincerity, and a lot of acceptance in this particular state and uh we're the smallest state, one of the smallest states in the country but we're one of the most can do kind of state," Xu said, proudly.