Astoria Characters: The Candle Maker With a Mission

IPhone glued to her ear, Lisa Devine pulls her stroller up to 2nd Chance Candles and unlocks the front door.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Lisa’s the face — and guiding force — behind 2nd Chance Candles.

At 23rd Street and 21st Avenue across from a row of shops, 2nd Chance Candles has been the source of much neighborhood curiosity — and speculation — since its debut this year.

Part of that’s due to its limited schedule.

Right now, it’s open only on the weekends; Lisa has three young daughters, including Jackie, who’s napping in the stroller, to take care of, so it’s not always easy to get out of the house.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
2nd Chance Candles is at 21-02 23rd St.

As the name implies, the shop does, indeed, sell hand-poured candles; you can buy the ones Lisa makes or pour your own or even sign up for candle-making classes.

It’s the 2nd Chance part of the name that intrigues. What does it refer to?

The graffiti-style sign that tags the building offers a clue: It’s painted over a previous one.

If you look carefully, you can still make out the words Dry Cleaners and the phone number, literally illustrating the possibilities of a second chance.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Lisa wants to use the business to help the formerly incarcerated.

While rocking Jackie in the stroller, Lisa elaborates on her mission to help the formerly incarcerated get back on their feet.

“I want to hire them to work in the shop and donate some of the profits to groups that work with them,” she says. “Our aspiration is for them to create their own candle line and become their own successful entrepreneurs.”

Lisa, who has long brown hair and a can-do attitude, knows all about second chances.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Jackie comes to help out.

When she was given one, she turned her life around, and now she’s giving back in her own way.

The seeds of her business venture were planted in Brewster, New York, where she was born and grew up.

She lived a fairly uneventful life until she started college at SUNY Farmingdale on Long Island. Although she intended to major in dental hygiene and horticulture, she dropped out.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Lisa makes hand-poured soy candles.

“I got kicked out of the dorm for smoking weed and drinking alcohol,” she says, adding that she decided not to return.

After working and living in Brewster for a while, she and her then-partner came to Astoria in 2009.

“We each had $150 and a book bag,” she says, adding that she knew someone who lived here. “We slept in Astoria Park for the first two nights until I found an apartment.”

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
What the sign says.

Lisa, who is 34, eventually got a job as a barista at Igloo Café on 31st Street and worked there until it closed six years later.

Although she didn’t earn a college degree, Lisa did graduate – to heroin and cocaine.

By this time, she had a different partner, an Astoria native she met in 2015.

They were arrested – he for dealing, she for using. He was sentenced to 19 months in prison; she was ordered to rehab for 12 months.

“I only had to do 12 months, but I stayed for 19,” she says. “Rehab provided a good opportunity for me and molded me into a better person.”

They reunited and now have three daughters: 4-year-old Joanna, 3-year-old Julia and 7-month-old Jackie.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Lisa also holds candle-making classes.

After being a stay-at-home mom for a couple of years, Lisa longed for adventure.

“I love my children, but being with them all the time was mundane and monotonous,” she says.

It was her partner who came up with the candle-making idea.

Lisa did extensive research and began pouring candles in her basement and selling them at street fairs.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
2nd Chance Candles has 28 fragrances and several wick styles.

2nd Chance Candles offers 28 fragrances, ranging from Banana Bread and Snickerdoodle Cookie to Fresh Linen and Rose Petal Gelato.

“I used to do it at night when the kids were sleeping,” she says, adding that that generally meant 10 p.m. until 2 a.m., hours that she wasn’t crazy about that drove her crazy.

Usually, Jackie accompanies Lisa to the shop.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Lisa also is helping immigrants.

“I’m still breastfeeding,” Lisa says, adding that she hires a baby-sitter for Joanna and Julia, who sometimes come to help out.

In addition to donating some of her profits to help the formerly incarcerated, Lisa wants to collaborate with nonprofit organizations that aid different groups.

Right now, she’s designing a line of candles that will benefit Venezuelan immigrants.

 “I met some of them, and their stories touched me,” she says. “We learned in rehab that you can’t keep unless you give it away. “

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Lisa and Jackie look forward to meeting you.

Like little Jackie,  2nd Chance Candles is still in its infancy.

Lisa isn’t sure how quickly it will grow or which direction it will be taking in six months or a year from now.

But she’s fully invested in its core mission.

“Everybody,” she says as she holds Jackie at the front counter, “deserves to have success.”

Copyright 2023 by Nancy A. Ruhling