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    With candles, it’s in the olfactory of the beholder

    Many customers, like this one at the South Deerfield store, can’t resist the scent of Yankee Candles.
    Many customers, like this one at the South Deerfield store, can’t resist the scent of Yankee Candles.

    When you get right down to it, you’re either a candle person or you’re not a candle person.

    And in the wake of Tuesday’s sale of wax and wick behemoth Yankee Candle for $1.75 billion, one thing became clear: There are a heck of a lot of candle people out there.

    Here’s how you will know them: When candle people learn there’s a Yankee Candle Village in South Deerfield, a store that’s part scented theme park, part ode to all that wax can be, they imagine making a pilgrimage. When they learn that Yankee Candle sells tiny “car jars” to perfume the family sedan, they quickly rip down the E-ZPass so that the deodorizer can hang unimpeded from the rearview mirror. When they hear that one of the company’s candles can last for up to 150 hours, if used correctly, they think: six-day weekend.


    Perhaps they have watched the company’s educational videos on proper candle care, or on the art of layering scents. And when it comes to decorating their home — from an olfactory perspective — they consider one of the company’s many varieties of floral-scented candles to be just as nice as actual flowers. A trip to a Yankee Candle store? For candle people, it’s like a visit to Jordan’s Furniture, for their nose.

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    “I’m in here all the time,” said Chittrayo Ratanaudom, an administrative assistant at a Prudential Center investment firm, as she closed her eyes and enjoyed a long sniff of an Apple Pumpkin candle. Her Newton home is filled with Yankee Candles. “They give you an intimate feeling,” she said. “It’s like a sanctuary.”

    “We can’t get these in the UK,” said Cat Roy, a vacationing Londoner holding $110 worth of Candy Corn- and Pumpkin-scented candles. “They just sell the basic ones there.”

    But as for noncandle types, well, let’s let Nina Villanova of Hingham take it from here.

    “They’re homey, but like, someone else’s home.” She paused to consider whose home, exactly. “Like a Midwesterner’s home,” she added as she stood well outside the Yankee Candle shop in the Prudential Center. “It feels like Gabe’s mother’s house.” And who’s Gabe? Her ex.


    Leanne Ramos, Villanova’s colleague at a Copley Place shop, nodded along. She’s also a noncandle person. Then she revealed that some 15 years ago she worked at Yankee Candle’s “scenter of the universe” in South Deerfield, a Disney-esque village, complete with animatronic singing characters, year-round Christmas displays, wax activities for kids, and candles, lots of candles.

    “It’s a shopper I’ve never encountered anywhere else,” said Ramos. She described the Yankee customer as a “conservative mom” who’s eager to put forth a nurturing image. “It’s that Donna Reed thing,” she said.

    One Vanilla Cupcake-scented candle not enough? There’s a RoomAroma fragrance cartridge that can be attached to a robotic Roomba vacuum cleaner, the better to spread the scent throughout the home.

    But inside the shop, nary an anticandle sentiment was heard, as candle people breathed deeply, enjoying the intense olfactory hit as floral, Halloween, and dessert-related scents mingled in the 1,263-square-foot, window-free space.

    “Ohhhh,” Andrew Foster, a Canadian tourist, moaned with delight as he inhaled a Pumpkin Buttercream candle. (No, it’s not part of the Man Candle collection, which includes bacon- and Riding Mower-scented candles.) “I want to dip my finger in it,” he said, barely holding back.


    With the news that the candle giant had been sold to Jarden Corp., a Rye, N.Y.-based consumer products company, for almost $2 billion, some questions arose: Where does Yankee Candle keep those valuable scents? What are the blockbusters of the candle world? Have any scents suffered an epic fail?

    Alas, with such big money at stake, the company was not completely forthcoming.

    “At our corporate headquarters, we have a well-protected cache of active and retired fragrances,” a spokeswoman, Shelly Hazlett, said via e-mail.

    And: “Given the number of new introductions each season, we naturally need to retire fragrances. It’s a tough choice, and inevitably, there is someone who is disappointed when we stop producing a particular scent.” Of course, Yankee Candle does have a Treasures program, where, like Disney DVDs, the company brings back retired scents for a limited time only, so fans can stock up. (On the current roster: Autumn Lodge, Golden Spiced Pear, and Candied Apple.)

    But even as some people are scent junkies, others literally can’t stand to be in the same room with a scented candle.

    “I’m not a candle person,” said Jacky Abrams, a Maryland resident in town to drop her daughter off at Northeastern University (which, unlike Boston College, does not have its own logo’d Yankee Candle, in Eagle-appropriate Black Cherry). “I’ve gotten them as gifts. They either collect dust, or I regift them.”

    Where’s that fruitcake-scented candle when you need it?

    Beth Teitell can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell.