Posted on: November 22, 2023 Posted by: LeKeisha Edwards Comments: 1

Writer: LeKeisha Edwards

Nestled in the ambiance of Harlem, surrounded by the essence and history of Renaissance legends, resides Teri Johnson, founder of Harlem Candle Company, a collection of luxury home fragrances specializing in scented candles and inspired by the richness of Harlem. From luxury candles named after icons of the Harlem Renaissance, like Duke Ellington, Billie Holliday, Josephine Baker, and Langston Hughes, Johnson’s deep love for fragrance, jazz, and the vibrant spirit of Harlem, can be sensed throughout every hand-poured vessel and flicker of the flame. 

                                           “Langston” Candle (Credit: Harlem Candle Company)

 

A Texas native, Johnson has countless memories of being drawn to perfumes and fragrances, even as a young child, “I loved how good a beautiful scent could make you feel,” Johnson tells Upscale, “there was always something about a finely crafted fragrance that was inspiring. Over time, scents and aromas became something I was known for with friends and family, and for me, it grew into self-expression and art. If you knew Teri, then you knew that Teri loves candles and perfumes.”

As a travel and lifestyle expert, Johnson worked with several outlets, including the Travel Channel, Huffington Post, and a self-produced travel show, Travelista Teri, where she was able to bring her love of history and curiosity about other cultures to the world through her lens and perspective. Throughout her travels to nearly 70 countries, Johnson reveled in the smells, tastes, sights and sounds of each destination, ultimately building upon her understanding of the power of scent, “The experiences I gained in each country ignited all of my senses and really helped to develop my sensory memory. I began to see the connection between scents and how you could be transported through a time, place, or even a mood or feeling.”

“Josephine” Candle (Credit: Harlem Candle Company)

 

Ultimately settling in New York City, Johnson found a new home in Harlem, and the stories of the city’s past began to take her passion on an unexpected journey, “One year I wanted to give my friends and family some gifts that were unique–something outside of the box. One of my friends suggested that because I love candles and fragrances so much, that I make my own candles as gifts. I had ironically become acquainted with a local chemist who created candle fragrance oils for other brands, and though I had no intentions of starting a business, that’s exactly what happened! Since 2014 to today, Harlem Candle Company has really blossomed into what I call, a ‘dream come true.'”

Aside from the exquisitely scented candles and home fragrance products that the company boasts, along with the brand logo designed by Johnson’s father, what was most important to her was honoring the stories and legends of the Harlem Renaissance. The Langston candle, named after literary giant and social activist of the Renaissance, Langston Hughes, has essence of tobacco and amber. The Josephine candle, named after dancer, singer, and actress of the Renaissance, Josephine Baker, has essence of opulent amber, and notes of Tonka bean and Moroccan Rose. The Lady Day candle, named after the immaculate jazz singer, Billie Holiday, has essence of gardenia and coffee flower, fitting for the icon that famously wore gardenias in her hair. The popular, Speakeasy candle, has essence of bourbon and palo santo. 

                                             “Lady Day” Candle (Credit: Harlem Candle Company)

When asked what her favorite scent is, Johnson smiles and adds, “It really depends on the day! There are some days where I would like my home to have the essence of a speakeasy, so that may be my go-to. There are other days where Langston is really the mood I want to flow throughout the atmosphere, so I will reach for it. I really love and use them all.”

 

Another level of joy was reached when Johnson and her brand crafted a candle for our favorite, Oprah Winfrey, called Purple Love, that gives off a lush rose scent, with elements of sandalwood and clove, and celebrates a season of purple, including Winfrey’s role in the classic 1985 Steven Spielberg directed, The Color Purple film. The candle made such a statement that it is one of this year’s selections for Oprah’s Favorite Things. “It was one of the best moments of my life!” Johnson says about learning of the feature, “It is such a full circle moment to have Oprah Winfrey see the value and connection in your product. I am so honored and grateful each day.”

“Purple Love” Candle (Credit: Harlem Candle Company)

When asked about the future of her brand and what her vision is for the future, Johnson shares words of wisdom,” Throughout this journey, I have had the support of friends and family that believed in me, and a community that celebrates the love of fragrance and Harlem as I do. I hope to continue to take people on a journey that changes their atmosphere, environment, mood, or takes them to a place and time, through all the elements and notes of fragrance.

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