Amy Blake bottles up the smell of her Southeast Ohio childhood in a jar.
Enter her modest workspace at 94 Columbus Rd. in Athens, and the waft of nostalgia — homey, cozy, sweet scents — will strike you.
“I believe candles evoke memories,” said Blake, the owner of 2nd Avenue Candle Co. “The bulk of my memories are in that home I grew up in in Middleport. People want to remember those kinds of memories.”
When Blake returned home to Middleport, a small town that is but a blip along the Ohio River in Meigs County, she was determined to bring her entrepreneurial spirit back with her. Well versed in the corporate retail world — with positions at Williams-Sonoma and Lindt Chocolate in Boston — she was eager to open a business in her hometown.
She decided to take up candle making, and what started as a small hobby became a much larger operation.
She needed a place to sell her work. She and a few friends opened a storefront in Middleport in 2017, selling all sorts of unique items from makers in Southeast Ohio. After issues with a city sewer project that closed many streets, including the one her business was on, Blake made the decision to close her storefront, Tuckerman’s, in winter of 2019.
Small stores like Tuckerman's, have been affected by big businesses moving into the area.
“This community needs stores exactly like hers,” said childhood friend and Pomeroy-native Heather Woods-Shaffer. “Places like Walmart are killing hometowns and mom and pop stores, but that’s what keeps things going and that’s where you get unique gifts and items that have local character.”
Blake has witnessed financial struggle firsthand as a small business owner in Southeast Ohio.
“Our areas are so challenged economically,” Blake said. “Athens has always had a strong maker base, and I wanted to do that for Meigs. I was proud of what I did there, but I was bound and determined not to quit.”
In early February, Blake moved her operation into a maker space hosted by Appalachian Center for Economic Networks — or ACEnet — a local nonprofit that partners with regional businesses to stimulate a healthy local economy. There, Blake said, she will be able to focus just on her candle making. She currently sells her scents at Ohio is Home in Uptown Athens at 43 S. Court St.
Despite no longer having a storefront, Blake is eager to continue her craft in the area with the support of other local businesses, including Tim Martin, the founder of Red Tail Designs.
“Amy just has a great personable personality and has a lot of great ideas,” Martin said. “That’s what people love to see for a local business. She’s been a really good driving force of taking an idea and pushing it forward.”