Lighting the Way
Yankee Candle has long been a national and even global powerhouse in the scented-candle business, but the company will always have special appeal in Western Mass., where Michael Kittredge launched it more than a half-century ago. That appeal is partly — perhaps largely — due to Yankee Candle Village, which has become a significant attraction over the years, one that continues to raise the profile of Deerfield and other Franklin County destinations.
By Mark Morris
Yankee Candle Village may be best-known for its Christmas-themed displays around the holidays, Wade Bassett sees plenty of promise in the spring as well for a company — and tourist destination — that holds year-round appeal, especially as COVID-19 numbers continue to trend downward.
Bassett is the director of Sales and Operations at the Village, Yankee Candle’s flagship store located in Deerfield. Additionally, the company maintains a manufacturing facility in Whately, a distribution center in South Deerfield, and its flagship store on Route 5. Year-round employment totals nearly 600 people, and as the manufacturing and retail operations get busier for the holidays, the number of employees can reach as high as 750.
During the pandemic, staff at Yankee Candle Village incorporated extra cleaning protocols and made sure to always have masks for anyone who requested one. Bassett said the focus remains on providing a safe and worry-free shopping experience for guests who are looking forward to getting out and celebrating traditions with family and friends.
“We’re seeing daycationers, people who aren’t ready to jump on a plane yet. Instead, they are spending time visiting local attractions like Yankee Candle Village.”
“We’re seeing daycationers, people who aren’t ready to jump on a plane yet,” he said. “Instead, they are spending time visiting local attractions like Yankee Candle Village.”
He credited the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau for keeping Yankee Candle Village top of mind as a key regional destination. “Their efforts focus on a collaborative approach to drive traffic and tourism to the area, and we couldn’t be prouder of our partnership with both of them.”
Last year’s arrival of Tree House Brewing Co., located a half-mile north on Route 5 from Yankee Candle Village, has contributed to the amount of traffic in Deerfield, which benefits all local destinations.
“We have a great relationship with Treehouse Brewery, and we’re excited to have them as another strong and prosperous business in our community,” Bassett said, pointing out that guests can visit Powder Hollow Brewery at Yankee Candle Village, then head up Route 5 to Tree House Brewery, and from there it’s a short trip to Berkshire Brewing Co. located close by in the center of Deerfield. “It’s essentially a mini-beer tour right here in our own backyard.”
Deerfield Town Administrator Kacey Warren, who credits Yankee Candle Village for being a strong tourism draw that benefits Deerfield and Western Mass., made a similar observation on the potential mini-beer tour.
“We now have three fun brewing spaces in town that we hope people will visit to make them all successful,” she told BusinessWest.
The Nose Knows
Guests to the flagship store in Deerfield will also find more than 150 fragrant candles on hand. Bassett said many visitors enjoy the treasure hunt of discovering new seasonal candle fragrances such as Sakura Blossom Festival as well as traditional favorites like Clean Cotton, Pink Sands, and McIntosh, a personal favorite of Bassett’s.
The new Well Living Collection are candles designed to transform the mood in the room, he added. “It’s a collection we created to help find balance at a time when wellness is more important than ever.”
Over the last two years, as people were spending more time at home, the Yankee Candle manufacturing facility in Whately stayed busy. Demand for fragrant candles increased during that time, and Yankee Candle products saw plenty of movement off retail shelves. As more people transitioned into working from home, Bassett explained, they were looking to create a space of relaxation and comfort.
“Through fragrance, we are able to help our customers transform their homes into a space that’s happier, fresher, and more inviting,” he said. “Our passion for fragrance helps make your house feel more like a home.”
“Our programs are all about celebrating traditions with families. We are looking at more events that will appeal to all the families who visit us.”
While Yankee is obviously in the candle business, it is also clearly in the home fragrance business. That leads to developing products that may not be candles but help reinforce the Yankee Candle brand in new and different ways, such as the ScentPlug Fan.
“The ScentPlug Fan circulates fragrance throughout every corner of the room and has a built-in light sensor that provides a soft glow when the lights are low,” Bassett explained. Depending on the season or mood, a variety of scents can be easily swapped out of the fan unit.
As April approaches, Bassett discussed several events planned for Yankee Candle Village, beginning with the arrival of the Easter Bunny on April 2, as well as Easter Bunny greetings every weekend leading up to Easter Sunday. There are also events planned for April school vacation week.
“Our programs are all about celebrating traditions with families,” Bassett said. “We are looking at more events that will appeal to all the families who visit us.”
This year, the Franklin County Chamber moved its office and visitor center to Historic Deerfield, a move designed to bring more tourism activity to Deerfield and surrounding towns. Before the pandemic, Historic Deerfield would attract nearly 20,000 visitors every year. Diana Szynal, executive director of the chamber, said the new visitor center is an opportunity to encourage people to explore the area further and stay longer in the county.
“Part of our mission as a regional tourism council is to encourage people to extend their stay,” she said. “Yankee Candle, Historic Deerfield, and other great attractions give people a reason to spend that extra time in our area.”
Making Scents of It All
While visitors come to Yankee Candle Village all year, fall and the holiday season are still the busiest times for guests.
“When you grow up in New England, there’s the smell of fall, the feel of Christmas, and the traditions that come with it,” Bassett said. “It’s like no other time of the year.”
A highlight every year at Yankee Candle Village is the arrival of Santa Claus, who makes his way there by either helicopter or fire truck. Bassett said he enjoys talking with the families who attend this event every year.
“In some cases, the kids who came here years ago are now parents, and they are bringing their own children,” he noted. “It’s become a generational event for lots of families.”
The holidays are just one time when the loyal fanbase of Yankee Candle shoppers will visit the flagship store. But it’s not unusual for people to go there several times a year. “Fragrance evokes memories which are extremely powerful for our guests,” Bassett said.
Now a 30-year employee, he expressed gratitude to be working with “such an amazing company.” And he’s looking forward to spring and the opportunity to talk about another new Yankee Candle product line, the Signature Candle.
“It’s a line featuring new scents in redesigned vessels,” Bassett said. “My personal favorite is Iced Berry Lemonade, a mix of strawberry, lemon, and grapefruit aromas that will be my go-to fragrance for spring.”
As soon as the snow melts in the hilltowns, Bassett plans to make sure an Iced Berry Lemonade candle will have a prominent place on his backyard patio — a reminder that Yankee Candle, both its products and its famous Village, remain a year-round draw for people in Western Mass. and well beyond.