GRAYSLAKE — When the pandemic disrupted her life as an event planner, Patty Brown found more than solace in candles.
She found space to rent in downtown Grayslake, renovated it, and started her own business, Romney Brown Candle Company.
In some ways, she’s doing what she’s always done as an event planner. She finds ways to light up the room.
Named after his grandfather Henry, the year-long company invites small groups to create their own candles in unique, personalized hour-long experiences. For those 21 and older, Romney Brown offers a casual setting for visitors to drink wine or bring their own adult beverages.
It’s “perfect for small parties, mom’s night or a small gathering of friends,” Brown promotes on the company’s website at www.romneybrown.com.
It’s something she never imagined doing. The idea was born from a trip she and her 14-year-old daughter, Sofi, took to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The two stopped at a similar business.
“It’s something you can do,” her daughter told her.
Brown resisted, saying she had never owned a business before.
“Mom, if you set a goal, you always accomplish it,” Sofi replied.
At the time, Brown had been fired from her job as an international events planner. The single mother had started weeding the gardens and mowing the grass in Grayslake to earn money, thinking she would return to work after the summer. His boss eventually told him and his co-workers to find other jobs.
“I never thought I would go all the way to Lake Geneva in mid-January and come home saying, ‘Let’s start a business,'” she said.
But that’s exactly how Romney Brown started.
She and a friend built the space at 170 Center St., Suite 1, in downtown Grayslake, gathering materials from the village. They created a counter with century-old doors and added vintage windows.
“I brought a lot of Grayslake into space,” Brown said.
At the same time, she learns on her own to make candles. She has always been a fan of branded candles, she said, but has learned to create “safe for everyone” candles from soy wax using toxin-free scented oils.
Her grandfather’s story inspired her. He came to the United States from Germany in 1926 at the age of 17 and learned to knit as an apprentice in a knitting factory. He eventually opened his own knitting mill and named it Romney after a breed of sheep he admired for its quality wool.
To carry on the family history, Brown sells handmade knitted and crocheted products, as well as candles, both online and at the candle company store. It has become a family business, with his daughter, son and parents all working at the store. Sofi creates bracelets to sell at the store.
Customers are encouraged to craft their candles and then explore downtown Grayslake and perhaps grab a bite to eat at a nearby restaurant in the approximately two hours it takes to have their candles ready for pickup.
Jessica Kern and her 20-year-old daughter, Seja from Hainseville, discovered the store while strolling through downtown Grayslake one day.
“It looked like a fun activity,” Kern said.
The two recently made candles and made an appointment for Kern’s son and his girlfriend to make candles the next day.
With the help of the workers, customers choose five scents from 89 scents available to create their candles.
“They made it really easy and they were very accommodating,” Jessica Kern said.
In addition to family reunions and outings for co-workers such as teachers, Brown hosted birthday, wedding, and marriage parties, as well as divorce parties.
“One night I threw a divorce party on one side of the bar and a wedding party on the other side of the bar,” said Brown, who continues to be self-employed as an organizer. events.
She also organized several fundraisers for various causes, including one for Hailey Droessler, 18, of Grayslake, who became an employee of the candle company.
A recent graduate of Grayslake Central High School, Droessler created Project Hope in her freshman year as part of Future Business Leaders of America to raise funds and donations for those in need. Brown donated $5 for every candle sold and personally matched that amount to help raise nearly $1,200 for Project Hope.
Droessler has worked with Avon Township to provide personal care items, such as body lotion and nursing pads, to new mothers to help with postpartum depression. After the fundraiser, Droessler contacted Brown to ask if she could work at the store.
“I love this place,” said Droessler, who plans to study recreational therapy at the University of Iowa this fall. “I think it’s just perfect for Grayslake, just what we needed.”