Gretchen Christina Maser lives by a guiding principle: “I won’t make anything — I won’t create a product or use an ingredient — if I am not 150 percent comfortable with it.”
The founder of the Christina Maser Co., maker of “clean products for you and your home,” never deviates from that principle. She makes everything at her Lancaster, PA, production facility, ensuring that each meets her exacting standards.
There are no additives or preservatives in her environmentally friendly goods. She buys from local farmers she knows personally. Her glass jars and tumblers come from right down the street. Herbs come from her own beds.
While her product line is broad —from award-winning jams and shrubs (organic fruit and apple-cider vinegar elixirs) to soaps and scrubs — it’s her soy-wax candles that usually steal the show.
They are 100 percent natural and biodegradable, with no added color or dyes. But what people notice, and what wins her fans (and keeps them), is the experience of her candles. Each scent is perfectly balanced, compelling enough to make you close your eyes and breathe deep, yet subtle enough that even sensitive sniffers will fall in love.
Each candle recipe is tested over and over with different fragrance formulations and varying wick sizes to ensure the perfect burn — not too hot, not too fast, and always with a glorious, even melt pool. The four newest additions to the line, Ginseng Pear, Fern, Thyme & Rosemary and Sandalwood Rose, were in development for months.
What Maser leaves out of her candles is important, too. Unlike many scented candles, hers are paraffin-, paraben- and phthalate-free. This is a vital distinction for health-conscious consumers.
“Lots of people love to burn candles,” she explains. “They don’t think about [the ingredients] because they’re not eating it, they’re not slathering it on their body. They don’t think about the consequences of burning contaminants like paraffin or phthalates.” The consequences are both clear and documented. A 2009 study by South Carolina State University concluded that paraffin candles release unwanted chemicals into the air, and found that is not the case with vegetable-based candles.
Every Christina Maser candle takes extra time to create, from the carefully placed wicks to the small-batch production, yielding only four to six vessels at a time. But that extra time is paying off.
“I’m excited at how we’re growing,” says Maser, noting that the company has increased its number of retail accounts by 20 percent in the last year. But for her, it’s not just about the numbers. It’s about the people.
“We are creating jobs for people in our community,” she says, “jobs for moms with kids, jobs for people who may need to supplement their income . . . and we’re creating a sustainable business.”
She understands the challenge of those working moms well. When she started the company more than 20 years ago, raising her young children was both her “biggest challenge and the reason to launch.” She had sold a beauty salon business. Then she discovered a passion for making jam, which she began infusing with herbs from garden. That eventually led to soap-making, which led to candle-making.
Once her children were in school, she began building out the business, working from a space in her basement. The early years were challenging. “Marketing yourself and your product, plus being the one actually making the product is really hard,” she said.
Today, she has a small but mighty team of fewer than a dozen employees who share her passion for creating clean products that people love.
Which candles does Maser love having at home these days?
“I have Frankincense & Myrrh, Tuberose, and some of the seasonal candles. Oh — and I have Sandalwood Rose! That’s a must.”
— Marissa Christie, Weavers Way Working Member