The Smell of Success at District 78

District 78 Candles tell the story of Erikka Gray.
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Photograph by Devyn Glista

The unofficial beginning of District 78 candles was in 2014, when owner Erikka Gray made her first creations. At the time, it didn’t quite work out.

“I took a bit of a pause,” she says. “Because they were not very good.”

Then, in 2015, about to get married, she looked at all the candle-making stuff she had left and thought, Why not give it another go? I’ll get rid of all this wax and have a handmade gift for wedding guests.

Her wedding logo topped the 4-inch round tins, and the candles smelled like grapefruit and sage. Guests loved them, and Gray figured maybe it was time to give candle-making another try—on a slightly larger scale. Then based in Covington, her small business, District 78, specialized in vintage clothing, but Gray shifted the focus to candles and home items. Eight years later, the store is now located in Corryville, and the candles themselves have changed.

Photograph by Devyn Glista

Gray discontinued that original grapefruit candle to make way for new scents, and today she offers nine signature scents, plus seasonal candles, largely created based on travel and experiences. Take her personal favorite scent: Frida, named after Frida Kahlo. Gray used to live in Phoenix, and she wanted a candle to remind her of that time of her life. “It smells like spicy margarita—sunset-y, outdoorsy,” she says. “Every single one of our scents, I create myself. I mix them all myself. [They] all have a story.”

Photograph by Devyn Glista

District 78’s bestselling candle, coconut + pineapple, is inspired by Gray’s honeymoon in Bali. She wanted the scent to be reminiscent of the beach and the fresh ingredients used in the cocktails and smoothies she drank there daily. “I try to make scents that are complex and tell a story, too,” she says.

Customers can also make their own candles at the shop. If a scent isn’t working out, Gray is happy to point customers in the right direction. It’s an ability she equates to cooking: You need to know what ingredients work together, otherwise the cake won’t rise. She recalls a recent customer who needed a bit of a hand.

“It was a sweet kitchen scent they were trying to mix with a really outdoorsy, grassy scent, and it just did not blend,” she says, “like a jellybean you get as a joke. Why am I eating grass with buttercream on it?

District 78, 2908 Short Vine St., Corryville

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