Established by David Wang and Mei Xu, Pacific Trade International is a fully integrated global marketer of candles, home fragrance, and home décor products and the company behind one of the most popular candle brands in the country and around the world: Chesapeake Bay Candle.
In early 1994, David and Mei both resigned from their jobs to follow their entrepreneurial spirits and establish Pacific Trade International. To get started, David went back to China on numerous sourcing trips to visit trade shows and suppliers of gift and home décor products. Friends and family also assisted David and Mei in selecting a variety of items for the home. After a successful exhibition at the Charlotte Gift Fair in North Carolina, one product stood out from everything else: candles.
With a long list of new customers and more than ninety thousand dollars worth of orders in hand, their products became available in about one hundred doors by the end of 1994.
Finding Design Inspiration in Frankfurt
A few months later David and Mei travelled to Germany to attend the world’s largest gift fair--the Ambiente show in Frankfurt. At the show, they noticed interior lifestyle goods in refreshing contemporary styles and modern pop colors like mango, lime green, and lavender dancing before their eyes. Remembering the dull home departments they had explored in Manhattan stores, David and Mei realized they had truly discovered a void in the American market..
Discussing their findings back in the United States, they were introduced to Peter French, owner of French Color and Fragrance Company, who invited Mei, David, and their first partner, Richard, to come learn the basics of candle making at his offices in New Jersey. Bubbling with anticipation, the small team returned to Annapolis, Maryland and used Campbell’s soup cans as molds in the basement of their home to create their first candles.
A Brand Is Born
Leaving out the additive needed to create a seamless satin finish, Mei, David and Richard coincidentally created a mottled texture that would later become a Chesapeake Bay Candle signature look.
With a striking, contemporary collection and an established network of retailers, only one thing was missing: a name for their soon-to-be successful brand.
Mesmerized and inspired by the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay shoreline near their home, they decided to pay tribute and named the collection Chesapeake Bay Candle.
By the spring of 1995, David and Mei were scheduling appointments with retailers such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Bloomingdales and Nordstrom’s to show off their first line of hand-made candles. Blessed with success, it seemed no matter where the candles were presented, buyers demanded it for their stores. Over the course of the years, Chesapeake Bay Candle went on to establish partnerships with America’s most renowned retailers including Target, Kohl’s, Bed Bath & Beyond and Hallmark.
Chesapeake Bay Candle continued to grow rapidly throughout the 1990s, and in 2000 and 2001 Inc. Magazine recognized the company as one of America’s fastest growing privately owned enterprises.
Holding a Master of Science degree from Peking University, one of the best universities in China, David continuously focused on ways to strengthen the company’s operations. Early on, Chesapeake Bay Candle had established manufacturing operations in Hangzhou, China to support the growth of the brand and the company. By 2002, David and Mei saw a need to diversify and expand the company’s manufacturing operations and in 2003 they celebrated the opening of a second factory in Vietnam. To further strengthen the company’s supply chain, David and Mei also set-up of a sourcing and design center in Shanghai in 2007.
Back to the Bay
A very special milestone in the history of Chesapeake Bay Candle was the opening of the first domestic factory in Glen Burnie, Maryland only a few miles from the Chesapeake Bay and near the company’s roots.
“Mei and I came to this country very young with nothing but the American Dream in mind,” said David in his remarks at the opening event on June 28, 2011. “The United States and the beautiful state of Maryland have offered us many incredible opportunities. We are very fortunate and feel thankful for everything we have received. Now we want to do everything we can to pay back to the community, the state, and the country.”
“The opening of the new Chesapeake Bay Candle factory is the beginning of a new chapter in our company’s history,” added Mei. “Chesapeake Bay Candle is now truly an American brand.”
Equipped with a state-of-the art research and development center and laboratories for fragrance evaluation, fragrance stability testing, and burn testing, the Chesapeake Bay Candle factory in Maryland produces an extensive range of filled vessel candles through standardized, automated production. Today, the factory employs about 80 people and generates the majority of all Chesapeake Bay Candle product.
Alassis – A Fragrance Odyssey
In 2012, Mei created Alassis, an exquisite collection of fragrances inspired by sophisticated early Mediterranean civilizations, cultures, and gardens.
From Mei’s native China to her adopted Western home, fragrance had been a great passion and constant influence throughout her life’s journey. Over the past 18 years, Mei had traveled the world for her work and leisure, discovering cultural icons, trends, design inspirations, and fragrance ingredients for global collections.
Mei’s fragrance journey led her to the East Mediterranean Basin - where East meets West. Over and over, Mei fell in love with the Mediterranean region with its vast quantity of sumptuous botanical fragrances and its rich history as the cradle of fragrance of early civilizations. For thousands of years, fragrance plants had been incorporated into daily lives and luxuriant and fragrant gardens developed throughout the Mediterranean coastline.
As Mei explored this vast region, especially the South of France, Greece, Italy, Turkey, Spain, Egypt, and Morocco, she was fascinated by the role fragrance played in the lives of the people and history of the Mediterranean. The power of scent was thought of as mysterious, mystical, and sacred. Scents were used at rituals, for the power of healing, relaxation, and for seduction.
Inspired by her exploration of this most fragrant region, Mei dreamt up the concept of a mythical Gardens of Alassis, a garden with the most refined and abundant botanicals, essential oils, and luxuriant flowers, a garden of a thousand divine fragrances. Through Mei’s imagination of this garden of her dreams, the Gardens of Alassis, the new brand was born.