One woman’s pandemic project brings local scents across Long Island
By Julianne Mosher
When the world shut down in 2020, Renee Fondacaro immediately knew she wanted to take on a hobby.
Always a fan of candles, Fondacaro would have them constantly burning in her Old Field home. She took on a hobby at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic by blending essential oil scents with a clean, healthier candle wax base that she would drop off at her friends’ homes.
“I had ordered a candle kit because the pandemic was boring,” she said. “I made a bunch of them and would drop them off to my friends because I felt like it was a little gift that could maybe bring happiness when everyone was so stressed out.”
And they did bring happiness — because they smelled great. Fondacaro’s friends and family began to ask her, “Why are you not selling these?”
So, just about six months later, the mom of three signed up for her first craft fair in October 2020 where she made her first official sale. She and her husband John, who is a veterinarian specialist, decided that instead of a hobby, this was going to be a business. Soon after, they formed an LLC, got insurance and trademarked, and settled on the name “Old Field Apothecary,” as she creates her mini masterpieces right inside her Old Field home.
As a two-time cancer survivor, and retired nurse, Fondacaro is very health conscious. As an avid candle lover, sometimes it’s hard to know what exactly is being put into the air we breathe. That’s why she decided to make her candles at Old Field Apothecary 100% natural.
“It was really important for me to find ingredients that were very, very clean,” she said. “Candles can be very toxic if they’re not made with good, clean ingredients.”
Using clean coconut and apricot cream wax, she melts the mixture into jars that are heat safe for with woodburning wicks that make the perfect crackling sound. She would ask people what scents they were looking for, and now, nearly three years later, she has created over 80 different types, along with linen and room sprays and wax melts. She said the process is relatively simple, the longest part is melting the wax.
Fondacaro, who grew up in Setauket, would travel to local farmers markets and other craft fairs, along with making a website to sell her products. But she wanted to include the community even more. She started to approach local and other Long Island-based stores to start collaborating with including the Three Village Historical Society in Setauket and The Reboli Center for Art and History, The Long Island Museum, and The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook (where the candles are named after famous jazz musicians).
She began to venture out of the local Three Village area, too, including a collab with Kidd Squid Brewing Company in Sag Harbor and the Raynham Hall Museum in Oyster Bay. She is currently planning a scent for a shop on Block Island, too, and for some wineries on the North Fork.
But the Reboli Center is the place that has the most variety. Lois Reboli, president of the center, said that Fondacaro walked in one day and they talked about a collaboration. She couldn’t be happier with their partnership.
“Her candles are exceptional and we are very honored to have them at our place,” said Reboli. “They bring in a lot of foot traffic from people who may have not come into the Reboli Center before.”
Fondacaro said some of her most popular scents are the lavender candles because they’re calming and not overwhelming. She loves the more woodsy, earthy scents.
“Almost everyone who buys my candles always come back and tell me that they really can see the difference in the way they burn,” she said. “They don’t get headaches. They don’t get watery eyes. They don’t get side effects and symptoms from any toxins, so I love that.”
And there is a scent for everyone: blackberry and musk, coffee bean and cacao, strawberry cream truffle, or “after the rain” — just to name a few. Plus, they’re animal friendly so furry friends can enjoy these new smells, too.
Candles start at $27.95 and are hand-poured right in Old Field. To view the entire collection, visit www.oldfieldapothecary.com
This article originally appeared in Summer Times, a seasonal guide supplement by TBR News Media.