The Busch Brewery in Washington is back in business. Only tanks of hops and spices have been replaced by vats containing hot wax.
And bottles of frothy amber liquid have been supplemented by jars in dozens of different sizes holding clusters of vibrant pink, deep green, calming blue, tropical yellow and pure white.
The aroma of nutty, malting grains has been covered by fresh sweet fragrances, some fruity like, raspberry or mango papaya, others like apple butter or cappuccino.
“You should have smelled it before I got here,” said the great-great-grandson of John B. Busch Sr., Kevin Wolff, who acquired a candle company from Sue Croft in Clinton, Mo., earlier this year and set up shop in the building that housed his family’s business more than 50 years ago.
Wolff’s business is called Sue Croft Candles at the Washington Brewery.
In 1953, Ulrich Busch Jr., Wolff’s great-uncle, sold the brewery and since then different owners have leased parts of the old brewery to various businesses. Sales offices, restaurants and a day spa have occupied the brewery at one time or another. The Busch mansion became the city VFW Hall.
Wolff said his main objective is to maintain the integrity of the product he’s acquired and preserve the history at his place of business.
He spent a few weeks over the summer learning the process of production and how to use the tools designed by the Crofts. Later, he might experiment with his own flavors and mold designs.
Sue Croft sold her products wholesale and had some online sales, according to Wolff. Some online vendors, like eBay, don’t interest Wolff but updating the business website, suecroftcandles.com, retaining some of wholesale buyers and finding new ones are priorities.
Wolff has two full-time shop assistants and one part-time worker to help with electronic sales.
“I’m starting from the ground floor, you can say,” he remarked.
Wolff said a building inspection is scheduled for mid-November and his goal is to begin sales in time for the holidays. But building up the supply of candles ready for sale takes time.
“Everything is hand poured,” he explained, noting a Sue Croft candle isn’t a wick surrounded by one type of wax. Drops of hardened wax, similar in size and shape to a thimble, are put in candle jars before the base wax. The result is a more colorfully and dynamically scented product, he said.
Pink drops in rich brown wax make chocolate and cherries. A maple base over pecan drops is almost as good as a Thanksgiving pie. Plumaberry, like it sounds, has deep purple plum drops in a raspberry base.
Every scent: honeysuckle, French vanilla, carrot cake, rose, clean laundry, pumpkin pie, fresh pine and many others feature at least one drop in addition to the base wax for a bold, long lasting candle.
“Everything’s pretty much fresh,” Wolff said.
In addition to the candle production materials, Wolff received an extensive collection of antiques from Croft and her husband.
Some larger items such as a pump organ, pianos, jukeboxes, dressers and a record player are fully or in the process of being restored by Croft’s husband. A number of smaller things such as vases, tableware and pottery are still in boxes.
Within a few weeks of having candle sales up and running, Wolff will open other parts of the brewery as an antique sales showroom.
The 23,000 square foot facility is located on Busch Avenue off Jefferson Street.
The entrance to Wolff’s business is on the back side of the property, just below the banquet hall.