By Kelley Carlson
The Knorr Candle Factory and retail shop may be for sale, but the owner still has a burning desire to see the business continue.
“I’d like to sell it to someone who will keep it going,” owner Steve Knorr said. “Hopefully, somebody will buy the place and keep it running just the way it is. That’s really my goal.”
The 67-year-old believes the time has come for him to retire, and he doesn’t have anyone in the family to take over his role.
“It’s a lot of work, even though it’s a wonderful place,” Knorr said.
Knorr Candle Factory produces more than 1 million candles each year, according to Bob Angello, broker associate at Willis Allen Real Estate, who is handling the property’s sale. There are more than 3,000 candle models, in varying colors, sizes and shapes, Knorr added. The unique candles are created from pure beeswax; they are smokeless, dripless and burn twice as long as a standard candle, he said.
The business has been in the Knorr family for several generations. Steve’s grandfather, Ferdinand Knorr, was a machinist and part-time beekeeper who immigrated to the U.S. from Poland in 1904. He came to San Diego in 1920, and moved to the San Dieguito River Valley six years later. In 1928, Knorr Candle Factory was established at 14906 Via de la Valle in Del Mar.
Ferdinand established Knorr Beeswax Products Inc. in 1932 as an outgrowth of the then-existing business, producing candles, honeycomb foundation that speeds up the honey-making process, and sheets of wax used by candle-making hobbyists.
In 1950, Ferdinand’s son Henry bought the company; Steve took over ownership from his father in 1985.
Today, the Del Mar landmark has 20 employees, including Henry, who works in the beekeeping department. The candles can be found all over the world, including in high-end gift shops in places such as Beverly Hills and New York. The Knorr brand is even familiar in the White House; its candles decorated Christmas dinners for presidents Einsenhower and Clinton.
Despite the fact that Knorr Candle Factory has been on the market for several weeks, it is continuing to operate during its regular hours, and there is no going-out-of-business sale planned, Steve Knorr said.
Five buildings totaling 10,000 square feet are part of the $5 million asking price: There’s the candle factory and retail shop, a showroom and offices, and a house and cottage. There are also two legal lots as part of the package — one is 2-and-a-half acres and contains the structures; the other is 1 acre and vacant. In addition, there are two parking lots containing more than 50 spaces.
“(The factory) is a neat atmosphere, a throwback to the early 1900s,” Angello said.
Once the business is sold, Knorr acknowledged that it might be a bit of an adjustment.
“I would have to get over the shock of not having to work,” he said with a laugh. “It might take a while.”
But he indicated that he would probably adjust just fine by scuba diving and spending time at the beach, along with traveling.
Knorr hinted that he could possible stay involved in the business for a while, even after its sale, because there’s a learning curve with the machines and various other aspects of the company.
He added that he hopes the buyer will keep a good portion of the employees, some of which have been with the company for more than 30 years, since they’re “highly trained.”
“The company is still doing well; it’s such a well-known candle (brand),” Knorr said.