LANSDALE — Behind a brick wall and windows that will soon be unboarded, on one of Lansdale’s busiest streets, the town’s newest business is taking shape.
On the first floor of 307 Derstine Avenue, since the start of May, a sign on the outside window has been the first hint of who’s in the process of moving in: Shane and Pepper Soy Candle Company.
“They’re the best candles in town — and also America,” said founder Shane Popiny, while petting his mobility service dog Pepper.
Shane and Pepper Soy Candle Company originated in 2016 as a fundraiser for Shane and his family to raise funds to purchase Pepper through a nonprofit called 4 Paws for Ability. Currently a seventh grader at Penndale Middle School, Shane suffered a stroke as a newborn, and was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and the idea to make candles was a natural one.
“The candle idea came because he loved the flicker of the candles when he was a baby. It just brought him calmness,” said Shane’s mom Marie, and Shane added: “I just love candles. It’s amazing, it’s really beautiful.”
“Last year, Shane was like, ‘Let’s make candles.’ And he wanted to bring —” Marie said, and Shane finished the sentence: “light into people’s darkness.”
Shane Popiny, his mother Marie, and his mobility service dog Pepper, the co-namesake of his Shane and Pepper Soy Candle Company, pose with shelves and pallets full of candles inside the company’s new production room on Tuesday, May 17 2022. (Dan Sokil – MediaNews Group)
After adding Pepper to the family in 2019, in 2020 the fundraiser became an official online business, and the family opened a storefront on Broad Street in 2021, before the young CEO and his family learned of space available on the first floor of The Reporter building, owned since 2019 by Brian Derbyshire and now the home of his Derbyshire Marine Products. The Reporter offices are now on the second floor.
A tip from Victor Ykoruk, distributor for the adjacent Pinnacle Ridge Winery, led the Popiny family to look into expanding into a larger space, and what had once been a conference room and circulation offices of The Reporter are currently being converted into a production room, showroom floor, and office and storage space for Shane and Pepper.
“The shopping area will be here, and the cashier up here. The offices will be back there, and then my office, and my mom’s office will be here,” said Shane, pointing to the front, then east wall, then rear of the first-floor space.
“That’s actually going to be storage — Mom doesn’t get an office, we need storage more than mom needs an office,” Marie said, as the two joked about whether the floor plans had been finalized.
Shane Popiny looks at floor plans for a showroom and offices of his Shane and Pepper Soy Candle Company, on Tuesday, May 17 2022. (Dan Sokil – MediaNews Group)
For now, Shane and Pepper are operating out of a former conference room turned production room, with an eye-level window perfect for visitors to look in and see the candle-making process at work. All candles are made using 100 percent natural soy wax with no additives, which is vegan friendly, biodegradable, sustainable, and burns cleanly: “instead of black smoke, there’s white smoke,” Shane said.
Next to the workshop will be an expanded production area, where Shane plans to hire other employees of different abilities, and the accessible first floor with plenty of parking nearby will be key attractions. Once they’re fully moved in, he plans to guarantee to cover the (50-cent) cost of parking in the borough-owned lot just across the street for customers picking up orders, and is already thinking about new signage for the front wall and flowers to plant next to the main entrance.
“I guess you could say that I’m a business prodigy,” he said.
Inside that workshop, for now, are shelves and pallets full of finished candles, and the various ingredients needed to make them. Online orders can be made now, and Shane and Pepper offer dozens of scents, largely based on pet names.
“We have Royal Fluff, we have Bark Matthews Band, Pup of Joe, we have Tail-or Swift — she came up with that one,” Shane said, with an eye roll at his mom, who listed more names she contributed, including I Got 99 Problems and a Dog Ain’t One and Biggie Paws.
Part of the proceeds from each sale is donated to a local nonprofit, and his newest partner is the Philadelphia Eagles Autism Foundation, which Shane said is special because he has a brother with high-functioning Asperger’s Syndrome, and for which he’ll bring several boxes of candles to Lincoln Financial Field this weekend to sell in person as a fundraiser. Once an order comes in, Shane or his parents will check the shelves for available stock, make more if needed, box and package, then ship, and they’ve had orders come in from as far as Alaska, while during a visit on Tuesday they filled an order for Philadelphia and one walk-in pickup order.
“We’ve been asked to ship to Canada and to India, but we really just need to figure out how,” Shane said.
Shane Popiny shakes paws with his mobility service dog Pepper, the co-namesake of his Shane and Pepper Soy Candle Company, inside the company’s new production room on Tuesday, May 17 2022. (Dan Sokil – MediaNews Group)
Each order goes out with a business card, a copy of their story, and is tied with a bow featuring a seal of Pepper’s pawprint. For now most of the site is still under construction, but Shane’s targeting a formal opening by the end of June, with hours likely to be after school Tuesdays through Saturdays, with his four-legged friend always nearby.
“He goes to school too, so wherever Shane goes, that’s where Pepper is,” said Marie.
Updates on their renovations are posted nearly every day on the company’s Facebook and Instagram pages, as are episodes of Shane’s weekly podcast. Last year, the company raised and donated over $10,000 for local charities and fundraisers, and this year he’s aiming even higher.
“I hope this year, we reach $15,000,” he said.
Shane and Pepper Soy Candle Company is located at 307 Derstine Avenue, Suite 102; for more information or to order online visit www.shaneandpeppercandleco.com, search for “Shane and Pepper Soy Candle Company” on Facebook or follow “ShanePepperCandleCo” on Instagram.