BUCKTOWN – A founder of the Chicago Makers Pop-Up Shops is opening a brick-and-mortar location for her candle company in Bucktown.
Resident Anna Romo started Virtue Alchemy Candle Co. in summer 2020 after losing her job as a massage therapist because of COVID-19.
After launching her business online, Romo soon met Monica Little, who had her own skincare line. They co-founded the Chicago Makers Pop-Up Shops, which sold hundreds of items from local makers and businesses.
The shop launched its first iteration during the 2020 holiday season, then started a semi-permanent site in Bucktown in early 2021. In the fall and winter, Romo and Little expanded to three stores across Bucktown, Wicker Park and West Town.
“We came up with Chicago Makers Pop-Up Shop as an answer to the problem: How do we help others that are in the same position as us sell their goods when there’s nowhere else to sell?” Romo said.
The pop-up shops closed after the 2021 holiday season as more stores and markets across the city reopened, Romo said.
In the meantime, Romo has pivoted to focus full-time on her candle company. She has converted the Chicago Makers Bucktown location, 2064 N. Damen Ave., into a hub for her products and wellness brand.
Each of Romo’s candles are inspired by certain “virtues,” like endurance and wisdom, and come with mindfulness practices and guidance.
“I was just a huge candle lover, always spending money on them, using them in my massage practice, my yoga practice, journaling, just to feel better, especially during the pandemic,” Romo said. “But I realized instead of buying so many candles, I should probably find an alternative, so I ordered my first candle-making kit online.”
Romo plans to host yoga and mediation classes, candle-making tutorials and other events. She’s redesigned the space to be an “oasis in the city” where visitors can find a relaxing atmosphere away from hectic schedules and responsibilities, she said.
The shop features a large floral installation hanging from the ceiling designed by Tessa Steele and a mural painted by Catherine Woods.
“I realized how much people need to take care of themselves again, like the self-care portion of being a business owner, just a human dealing with a pandemic and post-pandemic. And so I was really passionate about diving into my wellness practices and then sharing that with others,” Romo said.
Virtue will still sell some rotating items from other local businesses, including soaps, bath bombs and ceramics. Romo also still runs a Facebook page with more than 800 local makers where people trade tips and advice.
Romo said she’s using lessons from operating the pop-ups to her new business. She encourages other makers and artisans to “take the leap” and follow their passions.
“I didn’t know what I was doing then, and I learned so much along the way. And now I’m going into a store on my own that has this kind of weird fusion of activities and candles,” Romo said. “I feel like I’m jumping without knowing exactly what’s going to happen. But it’s just having that hope and excitement and curiosity. … I’m bringing wonder into it.”
Virtue Alchemy Candle Co. is hosting a soft opening 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday.
After that, the store will be open 10 a.m-4 p.m. weekends, with weekday classes launching later this summer, Romo said.
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