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Kringle and Yankee Candle: Scented-Candle Showdown

Kringle and Yankee Candle: Scented-Candle Showdown
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It used to be that if you wanted to spend an entire afternoon shopping for candles in the Pioneer Valley, you had only one choice. No more! A mere 13 miles up Route 5 from Yankee Candle, a small village of candle-themed buildings has arisen from the fields of Bernardston, Massachusetts, seemingly overnight–like Brigadoon–though this one isn’t likely to disappear as quickly. Calling itself Kringle Candle, the interloper is touted as an alternative “destination candle shopping experience” (DCSE).

But can an originator really be an interloper? You see, Kringle is headed up by the son of none other than the man who invented the DCSE, Mike Kittredge, the consumerist wizard who built Yankee Candle from the ground up and, until 2003, was part owner of the candle empire.

Kringle was born in 2009 when Mike’s son, Mick, created a new kind of candle as part of a business class he was taking. His revolutionary idea was to make his candles entirely white, regardless of fragrance, so that no one would ever have to decorate a room around a bright-yellow votive, jar, or pillar again. His father, tired of retirement, asked whether he wanted to make a business of it.

Two years later, the Kittredges have bought up several properties and are employing around 100 people. Kringle isn’t a carbon copy of Yankee Candle (no Bavarian Christmas Village as of yet) but the similarities are noticeable. They’ve opened a toy store and a restaurant in addition to the candle outlet. Soon they’ll launch an operational farm, and there’s talk of putting in an antique-car museum to occupy the menfolk.

With the shadow of an all-out candle war looming over the Pioneer Valley, many questions remain unanswered: Can the candle-buying populace be wooed away? Will Yankee stick to its multicolored guns or dabble in Kringle’s monochromatic heresy? Could there be wax shortages? Industrial espionage? Elf strikes? Who knows?

Any competition is likely to be good for employees, however. Work experience at a DCSE has never before been a directly transferable skill. The Kringle staff already includes several former Yankee employees, and there’s no telling how far the headhunting may go. Will Yankee Candle’s singing animatronic hillbillies defect? Santa’s intentions are as yet unknown.

Asked about what it’s like to compete against his former company, Mike says only good things about Yankee (a DCSE is no place for harsh words, after all). Still, he hopes he hasn’t started a fad. “Let’s just hope we don’t end up becoming the Napa Valley of candles,” he jokes. “I’d hate to see 500 guys doing this.”

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