Milford candle makers spark Devon business group’s resurgence

MILFORD — After successful Christmas and Saint Patrick’s Day Devon strolls, Julianna Shabarekh and Joe Carrano wanted to keep the momentum going.

“When we did the stroll, we assembled that in two weeks,” said Carrano. “It was widely successful, and to see the business come together was a light bulb. There is a new energy here, and it was time.”

Shabarekh and Carrano, co-owners of Legrify Inspired, a Milford-based soy candle maker and apothecary, are leading the charge to create a Devon Business Association.

The duo started the business in 2020. At first, they were working to build up Shabarekh’s apothecary line. Then they pivoted to making candles because the business started to grow, and they began to get busy.

“Our primary business is wholesale. We sell our candles all over the State of Connecticut right now,” said Carrano. “When we moved into this space, we decorated it and made the room available for parties and workshops.”

Shabarekh and Carrano opened the current Legrify location in 2021.

“The plan was by the end of 2021 was to have a bigger location, and by February, we signed the lease to our new place,” said Shabarekh.

“In addition to our wholesale candle business, people come here and do sip and pour candle-making events, which we do a few times a month,” said Carrano.

“We also have partners,” said Shabarekh. “We have one girl that teaches yoga here once a week and a woman who does charcuterie classes and succulent arrangements. We have a lot of things going on here.”

Shabarekh said when she was growing up in Milford, Devon had a reputation for being a run-down section. But for Shabarekh, it has been picking up in excitement.

“We saw potential, and with others decided to do something to grow its potential and get more restaurants and retail in the area,” she said.

As soon as they moved into the new space, Carrano said they started to connect with other local business owners like Bohemian High LLC and joined Milford Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“Together with Bohemian High, we organized our first Devon stroll, which was something that we did last Christmas,” said Carrano. “We were delighted and saw a few hundred people walking up and down the street. Something we haven’t seen in a long time.”

They did another Devon stroll for Saint Patrick’s Day, with the same success as the Christmas Devon stroll.

“When people find a place to park, we want to give them a reason to stick around,” said Carrano. “We are hoping, with the right momentum, we can get to that place.”

The idea to start a Devon Business Council started after the Christmas stroll.

“We learned little things we did right and wrong, so we immediately came together post that event and said we needed to keep the energy going and started to organize something more official,” he added.

Shabarekh said Devon businesses that would like to be involved can email Julianna@legrify.com.

Currently, the group is in the beginning stages of organization. Carrano said they are working on securing the 501(c)(3) status for the group.

“There is always an improvement to Milford when organizations work together,” said Simon McDonald, Milford Chamber of Commerce director of membership and marketing. “Having a few more voices to share and spread ideas is always better than trying to do it all on your own. Businesses in Devon, especially at this point, can use the collective idea as a way to market the whole area, as a walk-able place for drinks, food and retail. Rather than being a place to drive through.”

While Carrano and Shabarekh said they are advancing the idea of a business association in Devon, they didn’t originate it, they said.

“I’d say we are instrumental in that process,” said Carrano. “There were businesses before us who were part of the last go-round. Our energy helped spark it again. But some businesses have been down here for many years and have always been involved.”

One of the goals the duo has for the organization is to attract more retail businesses to the area.

“That’s one thing that’s deficit down here,” said Carrano. “If we had more shopping areas, we know that people would have another reason to stick around. We also want to obtain grants for beautification projects. So the goals are far-reaching.”

Carrano said they’ve met with many people inducing local business owners, lawyers, and chamber members to help set up the organization.

“Very soon, we will be holding elections, assigning officers to organize the process,” he said. “It’s a matter of keeping the momentum going.”

To continue the momentum, Shabarekh, Carrano and the team are organizing a summer music fest on July 28 and another one in August.

“We are going to stick with the stroll theme because it forces people to visit different businesses,” said Carrano. “There’s going to be food, music and fun.”