By Sarah Allen
Among the several speakers lauding the Candle-lite Company’s 175 years during Saturday’s celebration in Leesburg was U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, who said that the company is “another reason to say ‘only in America.’”
Boehner was introduced by Jerry Vanden Eynden, Candle-lite Company president. As a part of a slide show presentation, Vanden Eynden shared a picture. In it, Boehner could be seen working at his desk, on which was placed a lamp, a globe … and a Candle-lite candle.
“He supports us,” Vanden Eynden said, adding that he was “humbled and honored” to introduce Boehner.
Boehner began his speech by describing the world 175 years ago. At that time, he said, the tallest building was 500 feet tall. Also, Boehner said, there were no cars, no crossword puzzles, and no baseball games.
He also said that these days 1,289 businesses die each day in the United States. As such, Candle-lite’s milestone is “another reason to say ‘only in America.’”
Also present during Saturday’s celebration were U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, Ohio Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger, and state Sen. Bob Peterson.
Portman asked all of Candle-lite’s employees to stand and then began a round of applause for all of their work and contributions. “I want to congratulate you,” he said.
He added that Walmart executives told him earlier that day that 90 percent of the candles they sell are made an America, and a majority of those are made at Candle-lite.
Portman also discussed the importance of trade laws in today’s economy, adding: “We will continue to fight that good fight.”
He then presented the company with a flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol in honor of Candle-lite’s 175th anniversary.
Wenstrup discussed both the company and its product. Candles, he said, are “a part of our history … a part of our culture.”
He added that Candle-lite has “had a great impact on this area.”
Similarly, Rosenberger said Candle-lite’s “determination and fortitude” made not only Leesburg and the state of Ohio proud, but also the nation as a whole.
“You can see how strong this family is,” he said, before sharing a resolution adopted by the Ohio House of Representatives commemorating Candle-lite’s anniversary.
Peterson also shared a proclamation in honor of the milestone. “This is one of the good jobs,” he said, then joked: “It smells a lot better than most factories.”
He added that Candle-lite makes a “world-class” product.
Chief Executive Officer of Candle-lite Calvin Johnston shared the company’s history, saying that it was founded in 1840 by Thomas Emery, who traveled door-to-door selling candles in Cincinnati.
Johnston said Candle-lite was a major supplier of candles to Union troops during the Civil War. In 1952, the company relocated to Leesburg.
According to Johnston, Candle-lite is the world’s largest candle facility, with over one million square feet of operation.
He thanked Walmart for their partnership, and then recognized the work of the company’s employees. Many, he said, have second and third-generation family members “that still call Cande-lite home.”
During a video tribute, Leesburg Mayor Danny Daulton said Candle-lite is “so important to the village” with the jobs it provides.
The video ended by stating: “They say it takes a village, and we say that couldn’t be closer to the truth.”
Candle-lite Company Vice President Don Kauffold presented Greg Foran, Walmart U.S. president/CEO, with a Lifetime Economic Development Award.
Foran said he is “inspired by what (he) sees” at the Candle-lite facility.
“It’s good for America, it’s good for Walmart, and it’s good for … the customers,” he said.
Candle-lite Company CFO Greg Prampero said that two-thirds of its employees have worked there for more than 10 years, and that the average number of years worked for an employee is 14.
“This is truly a great place to work, and that’s because of the people,” he said.
He presented John Witham with the Candle-lite Lifetime Employee Achievement Award. Witham, Prampero said, has been with the company for 49 years.
After accepting the award, Witham said, “It’s all about community, service, and teamwork.”
Candle-lite then made a contribution of $15,000 to Leesburg’s beautification project.
Daulton accepted the donation, saying that he was “honored that Candle-lite is a part of this little dot on the map that we all call home.”
The celebration was followed by a Candle-lite Family Festival, which included Skyline Chili, live music featuring BlueStone Ivory, a Candle-lite Historic tent, candle-making activities, and other entertainment.
The event was for employees and invited guests.
Candle-lite’s 600 employees qualify it as Highland County’s largest manufacturer.
Reach Sarah Allen at 937-393-3456, ext. 1680, or on Twitter @SarahAllenHTG.