Mia Oaks at Island Soap & Candle Works' Ward store BODIE COLLINS PHOTO

Mia Oaks at Island Soap & Candle Works’ Ward store

What started as a hobby for Steve Connella and Ken Stern out of a Kauai barn in 1984 has since expanded into Island Soap & Candle Works, a retail and wholesale line with five shops on two islands.

The pair had been making candles and soap out of Connella’s property, and after a while, on a whim, they decided to take out an advertisement in a tourist-targeted publication. They didn’t expect the huge response they got — soon, their barn was overrun with visitors.

“It created a major traffic jam down their little road,” explains Richard Emery, Island Soap & Candle Works managing partner and owner of its Oahu stores.

To accommodate their newfound fan base, they opened a shop in Kilauea, followed by two others on Kauai. In 1999, the company came to Oahu, with shops at Ward Village and in Royal Hawaiian Center.

On Oct. 3, it re-opened its Royal Hawaiian Center store in a new space — moving from its previous location on the ground floor to a larger venue on the second (in Building A).

Emery, a business consultant and founder of property management company Hawaii First, has been running the Oahu locations since they opened.

“If you can take my humor for a second,” he explains of his desire to take the reins, “I tell everybody that it is a clean business that makes a lot of sense. And when you say that, it can be scents, or sense, or cents.”

Island Soap & Candle Works carries a range of bath and beauty products — many of which are organic — along with bath salts, shea body butter, shampoo and conditioner, body oil, fragrance mist and more. Its handcrafted candles, meanwhile, feature island-inspired scents including plumeria, passion fruit and pikake. Plus, it’s got about 60 different types of soap that do not contain any artificial chemicals and are hand-dried for 21 days. That means, Emery explains, there is no added drying agent to the soaps, so they won’t dry out your skin.

“They are great facial soaps — they have great natural moisturizing capabilities,” Emery says.

Between now and the end of the year, Island Soap & Candle Works also plans to re-introduce some of its popular products that it’s featured in the past, including Mistletoe soap.

In recent years, the company has been ramping up its green efforts, installing PV in their factory and utilizing recycled packaging.

“We are making natural bath and beauty products — preserving our environment just seems like a natural step for our company, as well as my personal values,” Emery says.

Business, Emery says, has been going well since they opened the new location. They’re currently exploring other locations for further expansion.