Colina Bruce of Noir Lux Candle Slays in her new Candle Bar

by Patheresa Wells

When you enter Noir Lux Candle Bar in Belltown, you are greeted with a unique ambiance. Colina Bruce, CEO and chandler (candle maker), has set up a space that looks like an Instagram-worthy living room, but this space is more than just socializing. Here you can sit down with friends and create a one-of-a-kind candle while Beyoncé performs in the background.

Bruce’s unique business started as a way to take care of yourself. Bruce, who has worked in the nonprofit sector for more than 15 years, was looking to generate additional income at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’m a person who tends to feel like I always have to do something. So when I felt I had more downtime, I started thinking about ways to create some extra income,” she told the emerald. She decided to learn how to pour candles.

Bruce read articles, watched YouTube videos, and did hands-on research while testing the best candle-making methods. Soon, Bruce’s family and friends encouraged her to turn this burgeoning hobby into a business. She started selling her candles online in September 2020 and expected to only sell a few. Instead, his entire stock of over 100 candles sold out in two hours. The interest encouraged her to take her business online.

The Noir Lux candle bar offers visitors the opportunity to make and cast their own candles. (Photo: Susan Fried)

Soon, Bruce was also attending pop-up markets — like events at Black Coffee Northwest and the Tacoma Mall — connecting her with other small businesses and a larger clientele. As more and more people were building virtual communities during the pandemic, Bruce started getting requests to host virtual candle-making classes, parties, and team-building events. The more attention Noir Lux got, the more Bruce considered opening his own brick-and-mortar shop, even though it seemed unfeasible at the time.

But there are times when you have to pursue a dream. Or, as one of Bruce’s favorite musical artists, Beyoncé would say, when you gotta be ready to kill. Bruce knew she would regret it if she didn’t at least try to open an outlet. So when the opportunity arose, she did. “I made the decision that I was going to be intentional about seeking out a space, and here we are. It wasn’t without challenge, but it really felt like a protest come true,” she shares. inauguration of Noir Lux took place in February.

Bruce wants customers who come to the storefront to understand that in addition to being fun, pouring a candle can be a healing and helpful time where you can focus your energy and set an intention. Casting sessions are open to the public during regular business hours, and while walk-ins are welcome, reservations are encouraged, especially for groups. Private parties, as well as event rentals, are also available. During each pouring session, clients are guided through the selection of a scent or the choice of multiple scents to create a custom blend. Then they choose a container and prepare for pouring. And as a finishing touch, customers can create a personalized label naming their candle. Recent ones include “Sisterhood of the Traveling Hijabs” and “About to Be Lit.”

In addition to pouring candles and purchasing pre-made candles, customers can shop from a selection of products including shower milks, body butters, journals and other items, all made by black vendors. Bruce says one way to heal is to use a product that someone else has handcrafted for your self-care.

Collage of photos depicting the interior of the Noir Lux Candle Bar and the candles, body butters and shower milks sold there.
In addition to candles, visitors can also purchase body butters, journals, and shower milks. (Photo: Susan Fried)

Some of the challenges Bruce faced were predictable, like managing logistics and supply issues as the pandemic impacted the economy. And others were specific to Bruce’s experience as a black woman opening a small business, such as the barriers people of color can face in accessing capital.

But these were not unknown problems. Growing up, Bruce watched his mother, a hairdresser in the Central District, struggle to keep her shop open as she faced rising rents due to gentrification. “I learned a lot from her,” Bruce said. At one point, his mother even moved her living room to their home. “Which is a looping moment for me because I started making candles in my kitchen, and now I’m into brick and mortar.”

Fortunately, Bruce was able to access grants and funding set up specifically to support small black businesses. This funding allowed him to shape the space into one that matches Noir Lux’s vibrant aesthetic, including beautiful wood accents, bold artwork, and a social wall for taking pictures with a sign saying “Too Lit To Quit”.

Photo showing Colina Bruce standing under Noir Lux's neon sign that says,
A neon sign reading “Too Lit To Quit” hangs above a wall at Noir Lux’s Belltown location. (Photo: Susan Fried)

Because she knows how hard it is to start a BIPOC-owned small business, Bruce wants the Noir Lux Candle Bar to be a place for others to come and build community. She envisions the space growing to include other artisans’ workshops and pop-up markets. This summer, she hopes to hold events on the building’s rooftop terrace. “I think it’s so important to have a space that is a safe space [and] … a beautiful space. Where you can come and feel a little candlelight if you want, but also feel like home.

For more information, visit the Noir Lux website and Instagram @noirluxcandleco.

Well Patheresa is a poet, writer and storyteller who lives in SeaTac, Washington. Born to a black mother and a Persian father, her experiences as a multicultural child shaped her desire to defend and amplify her community. She is currently attending Highline College in Des Moines. Follow her on Twitter @PatheresaWells.

📸 Featured Image: Colina Bruce has turned a personal care practice into an official business as Noir Lux Candle Bar in Belltown. (Photo: Susan Fried)

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