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Syracuse candle maker rekindles old flame

Candles are again being made at a Syracuse factory that had made them for almost 100 years.

Three years after Will & Baumer closed up shop and moved its candle-making operation to Tennessee, a new manufacturer of devotional candles has taken over the old plant.

The new company - Light 4 Life Candles - is headed up by former Will & Baumer president Marshall Ciccone.

Ciccone and other company officials held a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday.

"It's just very, very heartening to see kind of a new start," Ciccone said after the ceremony. "A new company, but doing the same kind of thing."

The past few years have been an "emotional rollercoaster" for Ciccone after seeing the company he worked at for almost 30 years relocate. But he says he's happy to be back in Syracuse.

"It was very uplifting to get this thing going."

Ciccone partnered with Syracuse Gateway Holdings to buy the old site.

The new company will occupy a quarter of the plant and employ fewer people. But thanks to more high-tech equipment, Ciccone says production will be higher.

The company plans to churn out roughly 2,000 devotional candles an hour. 

Light 4 Life currently has five workers - including one former Will & Baumer employee.

A candle town

Will & Baumer was started by a German immigrant in 1855 and moved to the site just outside of Syracuse in 1910. The company made candles there until 2009, when it moved south.

While the company was still here, Will & Baumer inspired spinoffs in the devotional candle business.

"Syracuse became, like, the candle capital of the country," according to Ciccone. "It was starting to lose that with Will & Baumer pulling out, but hopefully now we can resurrect some of that."

Two of those spinoffs - Cathedral Candle Co. and Muench-Kruezer - are still operating in Syracuse today.

Light 4 Life Candles is investing $5 million in the venture. New York State also pitched in with $250,000. The company says it plans to expand.

Parent company Syracuse Gateway Holdings hopes to market the rest of the site to other businesses.