Reed Candle Company: Surrounding the World With Light

Reed Candle Company was founded in 1937 in a garage in Texas to fill a need in the immediate market. “My father-in-law owned two Red & White grocery stores and couldn’t buy votive candles,” says Sister Schodts Reed, president and CEO of Reed Candle Company. “The closest place to buy them was St. Louis, so he decided to try and make them himself.” Peter Doan Reed, Reed Candle Company’s founder, purchased two votive-molding machines and began experimenting.

The experiment was not just a success; it led to an endearing innovation. “He came up with the idea of producing religious prayer candles,” relates Sister Reed. “Back then, it was more common for Catholics to go to church and light a little 10- to 15-hour votive candle in front of the particular Saint they were praying to.” Peter Doan Reed invented the Novena candle, formerly known as the 7-Day candle, which is a tall prayer votive enclosed in glass. The modern 8-inch Novena candle is available in a variety of colored waxes or glass and most often features artistic renderings of Catholic saints.

Interfaith Illumination

Peter Doan Reed originally immigrated from Sabinas, Coahuila, Mexico, to San Antonio, where he established Reed Candle Company. He ran the candle company until his sons, Peter Nathan Reed and Henry Reed, joined him to help grow and expand the business, and prior to his retiring they bought the business from their father. Peter Nathan bought out his brother’s interest in Reed Candle Company in the mid-1970s. Peter married Sister Schodts Reed in 1974 and she began to work with the company in the mid 1980s. When Peter fell ill, Sister Reed took over the business, and she has fulfilled the role of president and CEO at the company since the 1998. Her husband passed away in 2009, leaving a legacy of cherished products, employees and community contributions that Sister Reed and the company have continued.

In 2012 Reed Candle Company proudly celebrates its 75-year anniversary, and in the seven-and-a-half decades since Peter Doan Reed produced his first highest quality Religious Prayer Candle the company has expanded its product line to satisfy varied sectors without disrupting its primary market. “We make perfumed votives, pillars, household and decorative candles, and we do private labeling for many companies,” elaborates Sister Reed. “But Religious Prayer Candles are the staple of our business and what Reed Candle Company is best known for.”

The company’s Novena Prayer Candles are available featuring many of the 200 Catholic saints and are available in both the classic 8-inch size and a newer 4-inch, 50-hour size. Reed Candle Company’s candles are sold all over the United States and in select countries, mostly Spanish-speaking such as Mexico and many throughout South and Central America. “We supply candles to supermarkets and mass merchandisers across the country,” explains Sister Reed.

People pray to different saints to intercede on their behalf with God. This concept known as intercession allows us to petition the saints who are renowned for the cause of the miracle that we are asking for. While certain saints are renowned for various miracles and are known for certain acts which we may need intercession for, we pray to that saint to help us by presenting our plea before God in the name of his son Jesus.

Sister Reed says one of the most popular saint Novenas represents San Judas Tadeo, or St. Jude. “He is the patron saint of hopeless cases of things almost despaired of,” she explains. St. Jude is recognized for bringing expedient and visible help to those in need who pray for his intercession. “I, myself, pray to St. Jude to intercede on my behalf,” says Sister Reed. “I’ve been known to cut a ‘deal’ with St. Jude when asking for a particular favor.” Reed Candle Company produces his candle in both green and white wax, unscented or with jasmine fragrance.

Other devotions and saints include Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, or the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which represents Jesus’ divine love for humanity through the depiction of his physical heart. Virgin de Guadalupe is one of many celebrated icons of the Virgin Mary. Her candle is produced in white or pink wax unscented or with a rose fragrance. La Santisima Muerte, the Holy Dead, is a sacred figure primarily venerated in Mexico and parts of the United States that have high Hispanic population. This symbol predates the Columbian era and embodies a reverence toward death.

Reed Candle Company also features a line of Mystical Candles that are most popular with the Hispanic population. The images are silk-screened onto the glass container and many have religious connotations that date back to pre-Aztec eras and African roots.

Other Mystical Candles cater to more worldly pleasures, such as “Law Stay Away” or “Ven Ami,” which translated means “come to me.” “The ‘Ven Ami’ candle is lit when someone is searching for the ‘love of their life,’” says Sister Reed. Pancho Villa is also a most popular candle and is revered as the “Robin Hood of Mexico.” “There are far too many Mystical Candles to list all of the different ones,” says Sister Reed.

In addition to its Hispanic Catholic market, Reed Candle Company also produces candles for Jewish prayer ceremonies. “We produce both the Yahrzeit and the Shabbat candles,” says Sister Reed. “The Yahrzeit candle is lit at sunset on the anniversary of a loved one’s death, and the flame lasts 24 hours.” The company also produces a Shabbat candle, which is lit just before sundown to usher in the Jewish Sabbath. Tradition mandates that two Shabbat candles are lit in a household for the Sabbath, but many families light additional candles for each of their children.

A Family Business

Reed Candle Company has made an impact on its community that extends far beyond religious observances, as the company has always been a supporter of family-oriented outreach programs and supporting civic services. Peter Doan Reed founded San Antonio Little League Baseball and was known as the father of Little League Baseball in San Antonio, and since his company’s inception Reed Candle Company has supported youth sports in the area, among many other causes.

“He was very successful in working with San Antonio youth by taking young Hispanic children from deprived and underprivileged neighborhoods and getting them involved with the program,” say Sister Reed. “Today, there are many prominent business men and civic leaders who recognize that if it had not been for Peter Doan Reed, they would have ended up in prison.”
The tradition continues through the company, which supports the San Antonio Sports Foundation. The nonprofit organization works to transform the community through the power of sports for healthier bodies and minds and works in 262 local elementary schools with around 180,000 children.

Sister Reed contributes her personal time to improving the lives of the city’s youth. She works with young gang members, by taking them to see the greater opportunity available to them outside of the depressed neighborhoods where they live. She stresses that most of them need attention from a positive role model and opportunities to succeed. Reed Candle Company contributes to the same cause and recently sponsored the National Graffiti Competition. The competition sent a call out to young urban artists from all over the United States and allowed them to display their artistic abilities on a company building in order for them to be seen in a positive light. “The results were quite impressive,” beams Sister Reed.

The community-minded company has grown from the small, one-man operation in Peter Doan Reed’s garage to a business that employs over 180 people. Reed Candle Company is number eight on the list of top candle manufacturers in the United States, and has not seen any overly negative impacts on its market presence. The company’s product is considered the most sought after Religious Prayer Candle on the market today.

“We have felt some of the effects of the economic downturn, but our company is going strong,” says Sister Reed. She sees the company growing as the economy recovers and says the business’ footprint is growing. “We’re selling in areas where we did not have a noticeable impact five or six years ago,” she explains. These new areas include Oregon, Mississippi, Alabama and the Carolinas, where Sister says Hispanic populations are growing as people move around the country.

Reed Candle Company continues to develop new and improved products to meet the needs of expanding markets and changing trends. The company’s design team is updating the labels on the Religious Prayer line of candles. Sister Reed explains, “The images of Jesus, Mary and the saints and angels remain the same, but the overall appearance of the labels will change to bring freshness to our line.”

The labels the company is designing will feature brighter colors and improve the graphic quality of the labels so that, as Sister Reed puts it, “Our product will pop off the shelf.” Other lines of the company’s products are getting makeovers, too. Reed Candle Company’s line of nonreligious candles, like jar-filled candles and hand-poured pillar candles, are being updated with new colors, finishes and scents to keep up with industry trends.

Reed Candle Company has built upon tradition to create a lasting staple across the globe. Sister Reed and her team of 185 dedicated, valued employees embody a dedication to responsible business unparalleled by many businesses. The company adheres to all of the recommendations from the National Candle Association, the American Society of Testing and Measures, the National Packaging Association and all federal and state regulatory agencies. First and foremost, the company adheres to the values represented by its motto, “Surround Your World With Light,” which means not only actual light, but also the light of God that surrounds us. Reed Candle Company tastefully celebrates the Catholic culture, while maintaining contemporary appeal, and will continue to add a positive light to the lives of its customers and community as the company approaches its centennial.