ITHACA, N.Y.—For Sunbeam Candles, business is lit. The candle maker is pursuing plans for a renovated, expanded facility, and new jobs to go with it.

The firm was launched in 2004 by company president David Gould and moved to the town of Enfield six years later. Seeking to carve out its niche in the candle industry, Sunbeam and its eco-friendly approach have found a slice of the market.

The company makes beeswax candles by hand with equipment powered by the company’s own solar array and suppliers with 100% renewable energy sources. It also sends shipments using the US Carbon Neutral Program, foregoing the use of any plastic in their packing materials. As one might figure for this eco-friendly if premium-priced approach, the primary buyers of its products are 1,200 specialty natural food and product stores across the country.

Not only is the firm eco-conscious, it’s also labor-conscious. Sunbeam is a certified living wage employer in Tompkins County, and shares 10% of its annual profits with employees with at least a year of service to the company.

Business for Sunbeam has been glowing and growing. The firm secured a contract to supply Whole Foods stores in the Northeastern United States and grew its wholesale customer count by 20% in 2021, with overall sales increasing 47%.

With these bright business prospects, the firm has outgrown its existing 2,300 square-foot facility on Mecklenburg Road in Enfield, and is moving forward with plans to purchase and renovate two 5,000 square-foot buildings at 127 and 129 Hornbook Road in the town of Danby to serve as its new, larger production facility. Interior plans call for electrical upgrades, new insulation throughout the buildings, a new septic system, office space renovations, new overhead doors, a concrete pad between the buildings and a new, larger solar panel array to serve the business’s electricity needs. Total renovation costs are estimated at $700,000.

Alongside the new digs comes new positions. Sunbeam is looking to add fifteen full-time staff over the next three years to complements its current 10-17 person roster (some positions are seasonal). As now, all positions will pay a living wage at a minimum.

Along with its own equity, conventional loans and an IAED low-interest business development loan, the firm applied for a tax break from the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency to reduce some of the expenses of the expansion project. The requested exemptions include a $14,955 property tax abatement to phase out over seven years, a $24,000 sales tax exemption on the purchase of materials and equipment, and a $1,375 mortgage filing tax exemption, for a total of $40,300 in tax incentives on a $700,000 project estimated to have $5.1 million in local economic benefits over the seven-year period of the property tax abatement.

Since the incentive package request is less than $100,000, a public hearing was not required. The IDA approved the incentive package unanimously at its June meeting.

The renovation plans are currently under review by the town of Danby’s Planning Board, which will have a meeting this evening. An opening date for the Danby facility is not stated in the available documents, but would likely to be sometime this fall when the Whole Foods candle production gets underway.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.