Where’s your chill? At CandlePower, Yankee Candle’s new pop-up shop.
As I sit typing this from a hospital waiting room, a baby is crying and I’ve been here for three hours. But everything was beautiful and nothing hurt because, two days ago, I had one of the most serene experiences I’ve had here in La Gran Manzana…CandlePower. Yankee Candle’s new pop-up — and New York City’s most exclusive new shopping destination — is meant to bring a multi-sensory experience to frazzled Lower East Side workers and tourists alike. And, BOY, does it.
Stepping into CandlePower will make New York residents who hail from any southern state immediately at ease. The doorman greeted my friends Alex and Derek and I with a warm “Hi, how are you this evening? First time at CandlePower?” We nod eagerly. He escorted us to a young woman with glossy, honey-blonde hair who proceeded to launch into an explanation of CandlePower and the experience we’re about to have, quickly waving a candle lid in front of our noses. Balsam and Cedar is one of many scents we’ll have wafting in front of our noses throughout our journey — 12 candles are burning within the 5,000 square foot space (previously an Old Navy). These 12 candles will burn from now until January 3, 2018 — if all goes as planned, the entirety of Soho and the Lower East Side will smell like Fireside, Sun and Sand, and Sun-Drenched Apricot Rose.
Experience. Experience. Experience. This is the word retailers want you to live and die by, and hopefully, Instagram it in the meantime! Everything in 2017 is an experience, and Yankee Candle, though a brand typically associated with your high school best friend’s house, is no exception. My friends Alex and Derek are consummate Yankee Candle fans, so I chose to experience this experience with the right people. There were five Yankee Candle experiences, and we started with the first — a tiny wooden bridge that we ceremoniously crossed over into Yankee Candle Land.
Beyond the aromatherapy CandlePower will bring you, here’s an important insider’s tip about the pop-up. If you work in Soho or on the Lower East Side and need a good place to cry during the holidays, this is it. The employees won’t leave you alone, but you’ll be able to openly weep in front of them because they are really, really nice. They’ll probably wave candles in front of your nose to soothe you as you sob. If you require privacy, you’ll want to enter this next experience, the Zen Chamber, which is a dark room of Chesapeake Bay tranquility candles and a movie theater screen where you can choose your zen — writing in the sand, swirling your hand in a (virtual) aquarium, and another scene I can’t remember. The only other visitor in this dark room was a man by himself filming everything intently with a recorder. He turned to us solemnly and said, “I feel like I’m in Minority Report,” and left.
Next, there was what I dub the Home Shopping Network Beach Getaway experience — a virtual pool surrounded by an actual wooden deck and chaise lounges. We struck the obligatory relaxation poses and had photos taken by a very cool Experience Attendant with slicked-down baby hair swirls. We smelled the Sun and Sand candle, and all agreed it smells exactly like sunscreen. (“In a good way,” my friend Derek assured the Experience Attendant.) Moving on!
The most lifestyle Instagram-friendly experience greeted us next. Giant pink plastic roses with dark green carpet and a mirrored ceiling were worth quick snaps. This Experience Attendant was the least enthusiastic we’ve encountered, which is entirely understandable because he has the blandest experience. We smelled the Sun-Drenched Apricot Rose and nodded.
The next room, the Sideways Room, was by far the pièce de résistance of CandlePower. And the Experience Attendant manning this room was its king. The room looks like a Restoration Hardware turned sideways — chandelier on the wall instead of the ceiling, etc. I have no idea what this theme has to do with CandlePower or the room’s scent, Fireside, but who cares? He immediately asked us, “OK, whose phone are we using?” and started orchestrating elaborate poses where we mimic being sideways, blown askew by an intense, imaginary and also inexplicably present storm. The attendant walks us through a series of photos faux-meditating, standing in various places in the room, hanging onto the chandelier, and jauntily kicking one heel up. The attendant was very good at his job. “These are really incredible,” he told us, clicking through a series of photos.
The only time I felt a small flame of rage at CandlePower was after the Sideways Room. We meandered over to the Scent Test, where I’m FAIRLY CERTAIN, the first Experience Attendant told us, if we won the scent test, we got a free candle. This was patently false (and also, I should have known because that seemed too good to be true.) The candles were usual price, $27 each, but we did get to customize it with a sticker. “Nothing explicit, please!” the Experience Attendant warned us with a laugh. I hadn’t thought about it, but now that she suggested it, all I wanted to do was stick a nude on 10 Yankee Candles and distribute them as Christmas gifts.
But we chose an innocent expression of joy on our shared candle (we would not be paying for three separate ones). We chose a photo from the Sideways Room and the scent of Candy Cane. The only other unintentionally stressful undercurrent of the experience was just how nice all of the attendants were — they were so friendly, eagerly recommending their favorite scents, cheering us on during the Scent Test, patiently waiting as we struck silly poses. We all of a sudden became fearful of disappointing them, Derek at one point sneaking a New York-signature Soho scent back to its shelf because he didn’t want to disappoint the fellow who was arguably the candle’s biggest cheerleader.
The whole thing felt like being inside a giant Home Shopping Network infomercial — albeit a chicer, slightly dressier one — and it was a soothing, ASMR-like sensation highly recommended to both stressed-out New Yorkers and tourists. I will likely return a few more times throughout the holiday season — once for the Balsam and Cedar scent, another time to try to sneak a nude photo on a candle, and a third time just because I can.