Callie Altman, owner of North Mountain Candle Company, has been making candles for twelve years. Her journey began one Christmas while trying to come up with a way to make gifts for the holiday budget-friendly. She decided to take her love of candles to the next level and make a few herself. They were a hit with her friends and family, and over the next year she transformed the experiment into a business that continues to reflect her love of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
North Mountain Candle Company takes its name from an actual mountain in a small former mining community called Longdale, where Callie grew up.
“Almost all of my childhood memories involve the outdoors in some way, shape or form,” Callie recalls. “From hiking along the Appalachian Trail to camping at Douthat State Park, or fishing on the Cowpasture River. The main driving force behind my business is to share my love of the Blue Ridge Mountains around the world. It’s a wonderful place to live, grow up, and raise a family. Our scents are inspired by this area.”
With scents like Mill Mountain Magnolia, Hotel Roanoke Spoonbread, and Smith Mountain Lake House, just lighting one of these unique creations is enough to take anyone back to their best memories of Southwest Virginia. Every candle is 100% handmade. Callie and her family try to get everything they use for the candles locally to support local sustainable businesses. They don’t mass produce anything, and there are no machines. Every inch of the process from making the candles to printing off labels is done by hand.
When she isn’t making candles, Callie can be found throughout the community teaching classes at the Omni Homestead or set up anywhere from small school fundraising events to large vintage or antique shows.
This summer, North Mountain Candle Company can be found on and off at the Grandin Village Farmers Market. Currently, they are a fill-in when other vendors are unavailable, but it is a placement that Callie hopes will become permanent in the future. Customers can also find her products in The Hodge Podge across from Lord Botetourt High School, in the Local Artisans section at Natural Bridge State Parks, and The Flower Center in Clifton Forge. Of course, if you cannot make it to any of these locations, you can always check out her selection and order online at www.northmountaincandles.com.
All photos in this post courtesy of Brittany Smejkal, Eccentric Photography.
Linda Webb is more than the Executive Director of Opera Roanoke. She is a powerhouse for the art community, encouraging support for multiple organizations in our area. From Opera Roanoke’s performances to the exhibits at the Taubman Museum (and everything in between), she is one of many who reiterates that sustaining the arts is not just about raising money. It is about making sure people realize how special they are to Roanoke.
How did your interest in the art community begin? I grew up loving literature, music, and theatre. It spoke to my soul and I had a little bit of talent in those areas. When I was in college, I studied playwriting with Pulitzer Prize-winning Paula Vogel. After I graduated, I began working in the business side of publishing in New York, but I kept my hand in the theatre world. After ten years in New York, I moved to Roanoke to get married and made the switch to nonprofit fundraising.
I began volunteering at Mill Mountain Theatre. I was excited about what they were doing there, and when their development person left, Jere Hodgin asked me to take the spot. I found that much of what I had done in New York in ad sales was transferrable. My experience had made me fearless when it came to calling on high level people.
What led you to Opera Roanoke?
I took some time off when I had a baby. I was still on boards even though I wasn’t actually working. The first board I was asked to be on was for Opera Roanoke. They asked me to contribute the fundraising knowledge I had as a volunteer. It was a way that I could keep my hand in that world even though it wasn’t full time.
Soon after, I began working at United Way. I always tried to include friends from the art world in various things that we did.
I stepped out of the working world for a while when my mother was ill. When I began looking for a job again, the president of Opera Roanoke’s board asked me to be the Executive Director and I accepted the offer. I know just enough to be dangerous, but I know more about opera than I did a year and half ago.
What can audiences expect from Opera Roanoke in 2016?
First, it’s important that even those who don’t think they like opera come out and give it a try. If you come to an opera once, you might just be hooked. Our unofficial slogan is, “Opera Roanoke, we don’t care what you wear.” It’s fun to dress up, but not everyone does. Be comfortable, come in your jeans.
Also, if you are a student, your ticket is free. If you’re not a student, you can buy a ticket for $25 and sometimes less with Groupon. Regardless of where you are sitting, you are going to enjoy the show.
This fall, we are going to do South Pacific. It’s sad, it’s happy, and the music is unbelievable. In the spring of 2017, we will be doing Susanna by American composer Carlisle Floyd. Both of these shows have to do with prejudice and overcoming it or not overcoming it. It’s very timely when you think about all the unhappy stuff that is going on in our country right now. However, it is going to speak to your heart and your brain on a different level than when you read or see the news. That is why I say, and I’m not kidding, opera can save the world.
For more information about Linda and Opera Roanoke’s upcoming season, visit www.operaroanoke.org
Janet Scheid is one of the most inspirational women we know. Since her retirement five years ago, she has given much of her time and energy back to our community as a volunteer with several organizations and as a Vinton Town Council member. She is passionate about helping the town of Vinton grow and flourish as a place for both residents and visitors.
How did you become involved with the Vinton Town Council?
One of the council members, Wes Nance, had to leave council last July. He moved to Bedford, where he is the Deputy Commonwealth Attorney. His term will expire at the end of June, so council decided to appoint someone to fill his unexpired term. They sent out an advertisement, took applications, interviewed people, and selected me.
It’s been nine months since, and the term that I’m filling will expire at the end of this month. Last month, I was re-elected by the Town of Vinton to continue serving on the council.
What have you learned since you joined the town council, and what are you most passionate about as a member? When I started, there were those who said, “You’re retired. You don’t need this.” However, I’ve always believed that if you want to see something change, you have to be willing to work and make that change. My mother always said, “If you’re going to whine then do something about it.” There isn’t a lot that needs to be changed, but there are some things and it is an opportunity for me to step up to the plate and make those changes happen that I think are important. Vinton is a wonderful small town with a great small town feel to it. In order to keep Vinton a place to live and raise a family, I think we need to invigorate the downtown area. That is starting to happen with some redevelopment projects in town that are going to bring people to live here. I think it will lead to the demand for more shops and restaurants.
You grew up in Washington, D.C. How did that influence who you are today? Well, even back then, the first restaurants I can remember visiting were Chinese restaurants. This was in the early 1960s. There is a proliferation of them now, but back then there were very few. I was exposed to a lot of food from different cultures—French food, German food. I was also exposed to a lot of different ethnicities. My dad worked for the government and he was also a student getting his master’s degree. He had a whole network of foreign students that had come to DC to go to school, and he would have them all over to the house for the 4th of July. I think my exposure to so many different cultures just gave me a view of the world that maybe is bigger.
What organizations are you currently involved with and how did you get started volunteering with them? I’ve served on the board for Susan G. Komen for the last five years—two of which were as president. I also served on the board of the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy for 18 years. Currently, I am the secretary of the Virginia Museum of Natural History. Public service has always been important to me. My dad was proud of the fact that he was a government employee. He instilled in me that giving back is important. It’s one of the reasons that I retired as early as I did. I wanted to spend more time doing volunteer work.
Years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Today, I am proud to say that I am a 20-year-survivor. It is an important part of my life, and there is no doubt that it changed my perspective when it happened. I had a great job, but I was ready to start paying it forward and doing all of these things I wanted to do with various organizations. The thing is, I know I get more out of it than I give. I’ve met wonderful people. It definitely keeps me busy.
What advice would you give to women who seek to be more involved in their community? There is a lot to do. Now that I’ve been doing it for five years, it is amazing to me how much there is to do. I can’t imagine how some of these organizations will keep going without a dedicated core of volunteers to help do things. My advice is to jump in with both feet. Meet people, ask questions, and go to events. For me, Susan G. Komen came naturally and the land conservancy did too because I had an environmental background. You have to find what you are passionate about. Maybe it’s animals, church, or maybe it’s children. There are just so many opportunities out there for volunteering.
What’s next for you? I am excited to continue serving on town council, and I have another year and a half or so on the Komen board. I’m going to be figuring out what’s next for me over the next couple of years. Some things are going to start to end, and I’ld like to branch off into some new areas. I haven’t figured out where the’s going to be. I know I’ll be busy. It’s not in my nature to sit. However, I am learning to say no. It’s an art I haven’t mastered before—but I’m getting there.
For our 10th birthday (our first issue premiered June 2006!), we profiled 10 local women who, against odds or in the face of uncertainty, raised the bar, achieved success, and continue to inspire those around them every day. We celebrate these women and their accomplishments because they encourage us to put one foot in front of the other, even when our strength is running low. They are a reminder that failure does not mean you will never meet your goals. Failure means you are one step closer to success. We will begin with Pearl Fu, Roanoke’s Ambassador of Goodwill and the founder of Roanoke’s premiere multicultural year round program, Local Colors. Her strength and compassion remind us to open our hearts and our ears to the stories of those around us—because every day is a chance to learn something new.
Outside of Roanoke, where is your favorite place to be? I have to be careful, because I have three daughters who are in different parts, and I love being with them. We all get together for Christmas in Boston. That’s where the oldest one lives. We call her number one daughter. Some people think it’s because I like number one most, but that’s not the reason. It’s by age. Number one, Penny, was born first. She works for New England Biolab. They recruited her from MIT.
My number two daughter, Wendy, majored in art and filming. She’s won awards ever since she was little. Her building was right across from the Twin Towers on 9/11. Afterwards she decided she wanted to do something to help our country. Today, she works for the government.
Number three, Colette, is an artist. After college, she had no idea what she wanted to be. I took her to my hometown in China to show her our heritage and she fell in love with it. She went there to teach English and every free moment she had she went to the villages to study her heritage. We are a Chinese minority, which is different from regular Chinese. There are 55 types of Chinese minorities, and each one has their own clothing, culture, and music. Colette travelled by herself and took pictures of the minorities in the mountainside. Art galleries in Roanoke exhibited her art, and from there she went on to get her masters degree and travel around the world. Today, she is a world-renowned artist.
All three of my children are very easy-going, hardworking, bright, and intelligent. People have said, “Don’t brag about your family.” I am proud to tell people about them. They are very kind. They care about people, and are very compassionate.
What is the most important thing you have learned while working with multiple ethnicities in our valley? I had never heard of Roanoke before we came here (in the 1980s). There was another family that worked with my husband that came before us and said that Roanoke was very unfriendly. They told us we would not be welcomed. When I heard that, I’m not one to sit there and wait. If they don’t come to me, I’ll go to them. I made Chinese bread and knocked on the doors of my neighbors. I introduced myself and they were really friendly. You really need to give people an opportunity. Don’t just block yourself.
You learn so much from each culture and there seems to be a fear of people that are different from you. There is a tendency to stay away from them. I notice people seem to gravitate towards others that are from their culture. There is so much to learn from each one’s background and culture, and if you learn from that then you can respect and understand the behavior of people. The more we approach people that are different and get to know them, the less we fear them.
People don’t realize that the American way of looking at things is so different from other countries. In China, many of our customs are opposite from America. If you didn’t know that, you would wonder why people behave the way they do. Once you learn that you can wipe that out and the world will be a much friendly place.
For example, in China, our lucky color is red, and so our wedding gowns are red. The unlucky color is white. If you give a gift to a Chinese person, and you wrap it up in white, they would be so upset. It’s like you are wishing them bad luck.
Tell us about one person who has inspired you over the years. Of all the countries that I wanted to go to, the most important one was America. It goes back to my grandfather. He always thought that America and China should be working together. He was the governor of Yunnan, and a very popular leader. At that time, if you said something like that, you could be executed. But deep down inside they knew what he said was true so he couldn’t be harmed. However, his position was taken away from him.
When President Nixon opened the door, my grandfather was reinstated as a hero in Chinese history. I feel like I am following in his legacy to not be afraid to say what you believe in. Money or power do not impress me, but people that care about others are so important.
It is Pearl’s sincere desire to help immigrants, new citizens, visitors, and ethnic nationals to acclimate themselves to their communities. If you or someone you know could benefit from her knowledge of that process, do not hesitate to reach out. She can also point you in the right direction if you are looking for more information on the many different cultures represented throughout Roanoke. So, stop her if you see her out in town, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions. Also, visit www.localcolors.org for more information on upcoming events like Taste of Culture, where participants can experience the music, culture, and food from different countries.
Stay tuned to our website for more interviews from extraordinary women throughout the month and pick up this month’s issue to read all 10!