Teri Johnson, the owner, pays homage to pioneers such as Josephine Baker and James Baldwin through opulent fragrances, intricately crafted vessels, and informative cards.
As reported by Inc., Johnson’s inspiration struck during her 1990s college internship in Paris, where she learned about Baker and other Black creatives finding solace in Europe from the racially charged atmosphere in 1920s America.
Reflecting on the inception of her venture, she stated in an interview with Inc.:
“Everything just fell into place. I was encouraged by friends and family who had received my candles. I was making the candles in Harlem, and I loved the Harlem Renaissance. My goal became to put Harlem on the map with a beautiful, luxurious fragrance.”
In 2015, she launched the Harlem Candle Company, offering 25 scents at $50 each. The distinctiveness of her candles emerged from meticulous research into the lives of the luminaries they celebrated. For instance, by delving into details such as Baker’s preference for fragrances with rose and jasmine notes, Johnson elevated her business to new heights.
Currently boasting over $2 million in annual sales, Johnson’s candles are available in major department stores like Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, and Macy’s. The best-selling Speakeasy candle includes a unique touch—a map of popular nightspots drawn in 1932 by Black cartoonist E. Simms Campbell.
Oprah’s Favorite Things highlighted Johnson’s Purple Love candle, a rose-scented creation inspired by a special request from the production company of the 2018 film “If Beale Street Could Talk,” based on Baldwin’s 1974 novel. The floral scent pays homage to Baldwin’s time in France, where he wrote the novel surrounded by a rose garden.
In January, Johnson is set to launch the Harlem Design Company, featuring journals honoring the Harlem Renaissance. New scents, including one inspired by Nina Simone, are also in the pipeline.
Johnson envisions creating a modern-day Harlem Renaissance by establishing a network of Black business owners in her community.
“It’s back. We are the creatives. We are the visionaries and the artists. We are the changemakers. With me being a Black woman, having a business based here, and celebrating Black culture that celebrates Black excellence, and Black history, I felt a very strong responsibility to be a part of it.”