A good many local looky-loos wondered the same thing: what’s going on inside the former Furniture Connection building? Windows wrapped in paper. Trucks of craftsmen parked outside, landscapers working outside. Something’s coming. One telling clue: a website address on the old marquee – www.beeswaxcandles.com.
As it turned out, the goings-on are remarkable and significant on a number of levels. A manufacturing facility, a 7,000 square foot warehouse, a retail store, a coffee shop with a bakery. Even a stage for performance art.
Bluecorn Beeswax, a company with more than 30 years of business experience, will be opening with a target date of mid-February. Founder-owner Jon Kornbluh puts it simply, “it fulfills one of my long-term dreams.”
Bluecorn Beeswax is a story about entrepreneurship and commitment. Thirty years ago, inside a 10x10 cabin with no utilities near Butler Creek, south of Telluride, Kornbluth and his friend Baker Steve bought five gallons of beeswax and made candles. They sold out. “That was the spark. I liked the selling aspect of it as well,” said Kornbluh, 54.
To recall a popular term, Kornbluh’s company was “off the grid. It was a simple life. I loved it.” Bluecorn was a regular at the Telluride Winter Festival at the Elks Club, its inventory quickly gone, its reputation spread. “Telluride was an extraordinary place, a combination of mountain lifestyle with a sense of community,” said Kornbluh. Three years later, he moved his company to Rico and became a pioneer in online sales.
In 2008, Kornbluh moved his chandlery to Ridgway and connected with Amazon for the fulfillment of orders. “Our volume (of sales) changed everything,” he added. “Our business quadrupled.” His operating space there was 4,300 square feet, about half the size of what his future warehouse would be. Last October, Kornbluh and his staff moved the whole megillah in two days to his new home, 1842 South Townsend. Four days later, they were manufacturing and shipping candles again inside a 26,000 square-foot building.
DeJulio, Kornbluh Make a Deal
Kornbluh wasn’t looking to build new from the ground up, but rather renovate with an existing building to expand. “We were looking for two years. I liked the windows that looked out on Townsend Avenue.”
The Furniture Connection was owned by Ed DeJulio. DeJulio got into the furniture business here in 1963, later expanding to downtown with Budgetline Furniture and then adding the Furniture Connection in 2001. The two businessmen talked several times before closing the deal in May. The furniture business is good, said DeJulio. The pandemic had compelled people to work and shop at home and reimagine their home furnishings. “But it was just time,” said DeJulio in his decision to step away. He’s 86. His son, Ken DeJulio, and nephew, Mark DeJulio, continue to run the family business, Flairmont Furniture on east Main.
“Ed was kind and gracious enough to do the deal with us,” said Kornbluh.
Said DeJulio, “Jon’s a visionary. I’m quite impressed with him. I admire his enthusiasm. It’ll be a good business addition to Montrose and south Townsend.”
Involved with Community
Kornbluh grew up in suburban New York City and went to college in Vermont. He came West.
“I wanted to move to a place with bigger mountains, better skiing, more snow, more sunshine, less bugs,” explained Korhbluh in his new office. Three candles were burning, accentuating a welcoming, serene atmosphere. Workers outside his office were noisily pushing to complete the retrofit. Tyrell Sullivan is the architect for the project. Stryker & Co. is the general contractor. Construction also started in May.
For years, Kornbluh returned to NYC in November and December in order to have exposure at the Union Square Market, one of the best-known greenmarkets in the U.S. “We were able to bring a little part of Colorado right into the heart of Manhattan,” said Kornbluh. “People were attracted to our products and vibe.”
During his 13 years in Ridgway, Kornbluh was active in the community. One popular event, Beer and Beeswax, involved children and parents. “Kids love it. There’s a tactile sensation to candle-making.” Parents, meanwhile, enjoyed beverages and bought candles. Kornbluh was known for his longtime leadership role in the Ouray County Youth Soccer Club. In 2019, coach Kornbluh lead Ridgway High School to the Colorado 2A state championship with a 2-1 upset win over Dawson. He is married to Melanie Law, founder of the Telluride Yoga Center. Today, she owns-operates Ridgway Yoga Shala. They have two sons, Jonah and Ruben. The brothers were teammates on the state championship soccer team.
New products, rebranding
Bluecorn purchases beeswax from all over the U.S. Unlike paraffin, which is a mixture of toxic hydrocarbon chemicals from petroleum products, Bluecorn candles are completely 100 percent beeswax which produces a clean, longer burn. It is a natural wax produced by honeybees of the genus Apis. The oldest beeswax candles were found in the Alps and date to the sixth century. Beeswax has been discovered in Egyptian tombs and upon Viking ships.
“It’s hard to find and it’s expensive,” said Kornbluh. “Bee populations have been decimated by pesticides.” One new line of candles will have a blend of coconut wax that will stretch the core beeswax product.
The next five years will have “radical growth,” he said. In order to fuel the expansion, Kornbluth partnered with a Florida-based equity firm that provided capital to grow. He kept a minority ownership stake and is the CEO. Plans include more wholesale expansion to retailers along with development of private label manufacturing. There will be additional product lines, too, like the new aromatherapy candles with a blend of unscented beeswax, essential oils and plant-based fragrance. There’s rebranding coming as well – soon, it will be known as just Bluecorn. The company will eventually employ more than 30 people.
Bluecorn will have an on-site bakery, will serve breakfast and lunch, using local and Colorado products and there will be a stage for live music. Another amenity is an open glass wall where customers can view production; another wall is a nod to the building’s past, a Monument Valley mural by local artist Bob DeJulio, a cousin of Ed’s.
“The Montrose project has been super fun and exciting,” said Kornbluh. “We’re going for it.”