Moving Forward: Remembering Bohemian Candle

Written by Judy Salamacha

June 3, 2022

A Xeroxed copy of the late Amber Renee Kent-Ziegler’s hand became the logo for Bohemian Candle, formerly was located at Main and Harbor in Morro Bay.

Flashback! Did you live or visit Morro Bay during 2007-09? Might you have met “candle man” Kevin Ziegler at Morro Bay’s Saturday Market? His day-job was Executive Petty Officer (XPO) at our Coast Guard station. Maybe you shopped Bohemian Candle with Monica Zeigler, the candlemaker, at Harbor & Main?

My husband and I reconnected with the Zieglers in Newport, Oregon while on vacation recently. We prefer familiar and historic attractions when we travel. Newport has it all. It is almost Morro Bay with a bigger bay, longer Embarcadero Harbor Walk, a maritime museum, unique shops and yummy restaurants. Morro Bay fisherman fish Oregon waters and dock in Newport Bay. Rogue Brewery created an IPA with all profits going to Ukraine. Their small aquarium has expanded. Their active arts community is thriving. They value their historic roots and waterfront enough to use as their brand to attract tourism. I could live there, but for their abundance of rain I wish they could share.  

The Zieglers now have two shops on Newport’s Embarcadero. Instantly I was reminded of the cacophony of sweet scents welcoming me into her boutique at Morro Bay’s Main and Harbor. Kevin is now retired and an active partner in the business. I remember doing a story about Bohemian Candle, but I soon discovered I never knew their true Morro Bay story. Former Mayor Janice Peters made me realize years ago that viewing Morro Rock had inspirational powers. The Zeigler’s story re-enforced my thoughts that Morro Bay just might live in the presence of a mammoth-healing vortex.   

Monica tells their story best. “We moved to Morro Bay in the summer of 2007 shortly after the passing of our daughter Amber Renee Kent-Ziegler. Kev was transferring from Coast Guard Station Yaquina Bay, Newport. We knew about it prior to the curveball that was thrown our way on November 21, 2006. Our daughter was in a fatal car collision on her way to school for finals before heading home for Thanksgiving. The plan prior was to start a candle business as Amber was going to pursue her career in childhood development at Cuesta College and help me start a new business. This move was inevitable and very needed.  

“We moved into a townhouse off Main Street. It felt so good to be somewhere new, to feel the sun on our faces and yet experience surroundings familiar to the home we had just left. Life moved forward as we learned to go through the motions. Our oldest daughter Amanda would attend Sac State and Kodi, our youngest, was starting middle school. Once everyone was settled, I then felt lost. One day while dabbling with wax in my kitchen, I found a Xeroxed print of Amber’s hand that we retrieved from her apartment the day we packed up her things. Staring at that picture I knew this was her message to me. ‘Mom, get up! I’m ok and I’m going to make sure you are ok!’ 

“Bohemian Candle was born from the free-spirited soul of my daughter Amber! I was excited that I had found something to pour my energy into again and a way to bring her with me on the journey.

Using Amber’s handprint as my logo and with full support of my entire family, I started manufacturing candles in my kitchen. I felt a huge adrenalin rush taking over. I applied to the Saturday Farmers Market in Morro Bay. I knew this is what my soul needed. Our product was instantly successful, but more importantly were the connections we made! I had a purpose and I felt like I belonged. I found joy again! 

“In October, 2007, we moved into our small space. Kevin became known as the “candle man” at the Market while I attended the shop! It was such a healing time for us as we were able to share the story of our daughter, her spirit and her love for life. I met so many others who were living with the same heartache of loss. The comfort we all found in each other was very healing to know we weren’t alone. I could always feel when the tug called kindred souls to enter the shop’s Dutch doors. Something told them they needed to step inside. In the end we understood that tug was our loved ones connecting us.”

After two years Kevin was transferred back up to Newport. “I was scared,” Monica said. They tried to manage the shop from afar. “It was not the same for me. I felt disconnected and missed the interaction with my customers. I lost my purpose and healing source.”

In 2010 Bohemian Candle opened in Newport. “I had to start over again, but it felt so good. Once we moved from a small 500 sq. ft. space into our larger Embarcadero location, the magic and love returned. Amber’s handprint graces the wall behind the counter and her picture and story is displayed for our customers.”

Again, they outgrew their space. Kevin and Monica were playing tourist one day when she saw a lease sign on a building that she knew was perfect for manufacturing. 

“I was reluctant to move Bohemian Candle from its successful location. I recalled the antique and oddities expo I had attended in 2019. It had everything I loved – things that make you think and question everything – historical oddities that make you grateful for modern medical technology and even things that make you question your mortality. We decided to open a second shop. Femme Fatale Curiosities & Apothecary would be where we could manufacture everything for both shops and yet continue honoring Amber’s original essence at Bohemian Candle.”

They signed the lease in January 2020 hoping to open by spring break, but COVID-19 intervened.  

“We were depending on the revenue from Bohemian Candle to give us the jump start needed to open our new business. It has always been the “little engine that could. Fast thinking and a tremendous amount of support from our community and our customers kept us afloat during this closure. We survived by selling on-line (Etsy and Facebook) and shipping out on Fridays.”

Femme Fatale Curiosities & Apothecary opened in June of 2020. Monica described, “The shop is a step back in time filled with 1900’s apothecary cabinets, including Victorian Mourning attire displayed to time travel customers through the journey of life and death during the Victorian Era.” The Zieglers employ six “…beautiful, talented women — mothers, students, photographers, artists, creators, a local tarot reader, and seasonal henna artist. These women contribute hugely to our success. We are family. Both shops are thriving.”

The Zieglers’ children, Amanda and Kodi, have gifted them with three grandchildren: Kaydance Amber Gonzalez, Olivia Renee Gonzalez and Ruth Renee Ziegler. They live in Washington. “We are living our best lives.”

Morro Bay is on the Zieglers travel destination list — sooner than later. They still have lifelong friends here. Monica said she will never forget the kindness of Los Oso’s Robyn Kaplan, a fabric designer, who gifted her the book she still shares – Journey of Souls by Michael Newton.  And she needs to see her Morro Bay friends, Cindy Leighton and Carrie Crocker Aguirre who helped run the Country Cottage on Main since she lost their sister, Kay.   

 

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