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Cooking up some candles in Lockport at the Candle Nook Cafe

LOCKPORT – The smells in the Candle Nook Cafe, a unique mix of baked goods, coffee and scented homemade candles, is enough to make your mouth water.

Owner Mark McDaniel, 51, started making candles about eight years ago, as a form of physical therapy after suffering a stroke. But his hobby grew into a passion and pretty soon he and his wife, Donna, had opened a store in Albion and then moved to a large store in Medina.

In 2013, health issues forced them to close, but making candles was not something McDaniel was ready to give up.

The McDaniels moved to Lockport and this past August they opened the Candle Nook Cafe at 16 Main St., next to Grimbles.

“We built quite a following and wanted to reopen for all of our loyal customers,” said Mark McDaniel.

If you stop in on any week day, you will find McDaniel, known to his followers and soon-to-be followers as the “Candle Man,” down in the basement thinking up new designs, creating new scents and filling special orders, while upstairs Donna McDaniel cooks up delicious sweet treats, as well as specialty soups and sandwiches.

It’s a good idea. You can also may get a bit hungry looking at Mark McDaniel’s candles.

His designs include realistic-looking replicas of food, including candle fruit pies, banana splits and root beer floats, that are just too pretty to burn.

Just ask McDaniel. He said he has over 200 candles in the shop and said he has the potential to create over 23,000 different scents.

The Candle Nook Cafe is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., daily. Closed on Sundays and Wednesdays.

What was the worst scent you ever created?

The worst was goat poop. I created for a customer. He took it, but I’m not going to make it again.

What is your favorite?

Ice lemon Danish. It’s unique. It smells great. Another is Santa’s farts. Santa’s farts is a mixture of everything he samples under the tree, cookies and cakes, and this is all in one candle.

You certainly have a sense of humor about your candles.

Oh yes. We have many unique candles, the ice creams, the sodas. Also cartoon characters, sticky buns, pies, all kinds of unique candles.

Does this work, having a cafe and a candle store combined?

I think it does, especially with all the smells. You can get a cookie candle here and go over there and get an actual cookie. Or just sit here and have a cup of coffee and unwind.

What do people say when they come in here?

They are shocked. They are amazed with the candles and the cafe. I don’t like to admit it, but for me my favorite part is this little comfy area (of couches and chairs around a coffee table) in the center of the room.

How did you get started?

About eight years ago I suffered several strokes. Before that I had worked at Babcock Ladders in Rochester. I was their regional salesperson.

How did that lead to making candles?

It started with a candle kit in the kitchen. It was just something to burn. I was tinkering. I did that for about six months. A few months after I started we started adding scents. My first was strawberry, for a festival.

Why did you open a shop?

It was unique thing and they didn’t have any in the area. It was something I enjoyed doing. Our first shop was in Albion on Banks Street. We stayed there for about a year. Then we moved to a bigger space at the other end of Banks Street. Then we moved to Medina. We closed when I was ill again.

But you reopened here is Lockport.

We noticed all of our clientele was mostly in Lockport, Amherst and Buffalo. We were both excited about this spot and Donna likes to bake, so this is perfect for both of us.

You said you spend most of your time creating, here in your basement lab. Does it still feel therapeutic?

Yes it does, especially now, after I just had another stroke. I also love working with my wife.

And will you be teaching candle making?

Oh yes, and I’d like to do more of that. I love to teach people.

What’s your favorite thing your wife makes in the cafe?

Monster cookies and root beer float cookies.

It sounds like you both come up with some very interesting ideas. Do you ever say no to an idea?

No. I am always willing to give it a shot.

How do you come up with all these scents? You are like a mad candle professor.

I just come up with something and manufacturers mix it for me. This is a very creative process. I also make my own molds, like these little pie crusts. Then I am going to paint them. I also am making snowball candles.

I can’t believe I’m asking this, but what does a snowball smell like?

The inside is vanilla, mixed with... well, I’m not sure yet.

If someone had told you in your ladder-selling days that you would be down here creating scented candles what would you have said?

“You’re nuts.” Plain and simple, “You’re nuts.” But this is the direction the Lord has given me and this is the direction that I want to go in.

Know a Niagara County resident who would make an interesting question-and-answer column? Write to: Niagara Weekend Q&A, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or email niagaranews@buffnews.com. email: nfischer@buffnews.com