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Friday, May 24, 2024

Cottage and Candles: Couple’s Businesses Teach Local History

The Freedom Cottage owners began a candle business in 2021 to continue to share the story of their historic property. (Courtesy of Tara Anderson)

JAMES CITY COUNTY — In James City County just two miles from Freedom Park, sits a small vacation rental home called “The Freedom Cottage.”

The cottage’s name pays homage to local history due to the property’s connection the park; one of America’s earliest Free Black American Settlements.

The property was owned by local slaves, as they were willed it from their Green Spring Plantation owner before he died.

It was then passed down several generations before Antwyne and Tara Anderson purchased the land in 2019 from their neighbors, who are direct ancestors to the former slaves.

The Freedom Cottage is the Anderson’s vacation rental home that is named in homage to its historical connection to Freedom Park. (Courtesy of Antwyne Anderson)

Antwyne, a contractor for the U.S. Air Force, and Tara, a former nurse and stay-at-home mom, had a separate cottage built that could be used as both a guest house for family and friends, and as a vacation rental property.

“We just felt like it was necessary that we picked a name to pay homage to living history that is not really known to this area,” Antwyne said. “Even though there’s many people here that are aware of it, there’s people outside of Williamsburg that just don’t know about it.”

The one-bedroom guest house, complete with a garage, offers guests a private stay close location to popular Historic Triangle attractions including Busch Gardens Williamsburg, the Williamsburg Premium Outlets, and the Williamsburg Winery.

As many of the Andersons’ guests are from out-of-state, they also are able learn a piece of history along with their stay.

This past year, the family has taken on a new business venture selling Freedom Cottage Soy Candles.

In 2021, Tara began selling her hand-poured 100 percent soy wax candles online and around the Greater Williamsburg area.

“COVID[-19] started, and I was using the candle thing as something to do during time away from everybody,” Tara said.

As the candles built up, Tara decided to start selling them.

“People liked them, and the guests liked them as well,” she said in an interview with WYDaily. “And that’s kind of how it evolved.”

From selling them at 2nd Sundays market and the Christmas Market in Williamsburg, Tara’s business has taken off.

“It’s been so busy that I actually haven’t been able to go back to work as a nurse,” she said. “It’s been one thing after another.”

Tara said that a lot of her business has also come from word of mouth around Williamsburg.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” she said. “I was not expecting it for sure. I thought I’d sell a few candles here and there, but the support has been overwhelming, to be honest.”

The candles also come with the story of The Freedom Cottage.

Tara Anderson has seen an “overwhelming” amount of support for her candles in the Williamsburg community. (Courtesy of Tara Anderson)

“I feel like the candles get to tell the story. And the story is important to the history of Williamsburg,” Tara said.

Hand-poured out of The Freedom Cottage’s garage, which the Andersons have converted into a studio of sorts, Tara currently makes the candles with the help of Antwyne in batches of 150 at at a time.

“It almost felt like it was meant to be,” Antwyne said in an interview with WYDaily. “We went to a business course for this where we created a business plan and we had to identify our main competitors, and Yankee Candle was our number one competitor. And then, shortly after that, out of nowhere, the store closed.”

“Everything has happened very organically,” Tara added. “And I enjoy it. I really had plans to go back to work and just do this on the weekends, but we were being booked at 100 percent and everything came together on its own. Most of our guests are from another state, and they also ask me about the candles and they take them home for souvenirs and stuff.”

Tara said that she chose to do all natural soy-based candles because when she first stayed home with her daughter, she was burning candles in the house and found out about toxins within traditional paraffin wax candles.

“I started looking into how to make something clean for the house, and that’s how it became the hobby,” she said.

The candles’ clean scents are free from carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxins, organ toxins and acute toxins, which allows the candles to burn for many hours. 

During the Dec. 21 interview, Tara was busy selling the candles at the Williamsburg Christmas Market, where she said she has met “so many great people.”

“The local support has been tremendous,” Tara said.

To learn more about The Freedom Cottage and the Andersons’ natural hand-poured soy candles, visit their website.

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