Sisters in Store: Small Town Siblings Go Big in Round Top With Candle Shop, Antiques and More
Fine antiques and luxury candles are a religion in Round Top, and these creative sisters are all in.
Sisters Gretchen Carr, Ashley Radack and Madelyn Peterson have always been close. Growing up in small town southwest Texas (Hondo, to be exact), they cut their teeth on the country antiques shops frequented with their mother.
All three sisters point to their mom as a main source of style and inspiration, noting that she began taking them on antiquing trips to Round Top as pre-teens.
“Our mother was born with an incredible eye for design and style, which we were fortunate to grow up with,” shares eldest sister Gretchen Carr. “We have always joked that she can make a trash can look like it belongs in a magazine spread.”
Carr’s own shop — Bella’s Candles in the Round Top Village development — got its start when she and her mother began to experiment with candle making in Carr’s home kitchen. A self-professed luxury candle aficionado, Carr continued to refine her ingredients and technique, using a variety of vintage vessels to hold her hand poured concoctions of scented oils and wax. All of Carr’s candles are triple-scented with luxurious fragrances she developed with a master perfumer.
The intoxicating “throw” from her creations keeps customers coming back to refill their favorite pieces, including personal family heirlooms.
“My use of vintage pieces goes back to growing up in South Texas where prayer candles are used in most homes,” Gretchen Carr says. “I look at the vintage pieces as reminders of people we love, giving them new life.”
Sparkling cut crystal candy dishes, patinated antique silver serving pieces and vintage ceramic vases with touches of gilt feature among Carr’s favorite repositories for candles, all of which are hand poured at a small factory and store near her home in Boerne. She hopes to open a third candle shop in Houston soon to serve her contingent of rabid fans that live closer to youngest sister Madelyn Peterson.
Peterson’s home regularly serves as a drop-off point for Houston-based customers’ containers, which Carr collects and refills. Since opening her brick and mortar shop in Round Top, Carr has expanded her line to include gifts such as handmade sterling silver picture frames, new and vintage decor, and custom made silver trinket boxes encrusted with ornamental stones.
Exactly one mile down the road from the Bella’s Candles location in Round Top Village is the Market Hill shopping venue, where middle sister Ashley Radack recently opened a showroom for her imported antiques. Renouveau Antiques features a variety of primarily 18th century pieces imported from France and Italy including furniture, lighting, mirrors and architectural elements salvaged from grand estates and churches.
Many of her pieces are painted and naturally wear the soft, dusty filter of authentic age that is so coveted by collectors. Radack, who learned how to achieve decorative finishes by training with a castle restoration artist, honed her skills and her eye while working with finishes maven Leslie Sinclair of Segreto Finishes.
“Leslie’s taste and everything she does is just divine,” gushes Radack, who started out by selling American antiques she found at estate sales and faux painted to resemble the imported European versions she adores. She made her first buying trip to Europe within three months of selling out her booth of faux finished pieces at Tanglewood Antiques in Houston.
Radack presented her first container of true European antiques at The Arbors venue during Round Top antiques week in 2014. In more recent years she has shown her pieces at the bi-annual Marburger Farm Antique Show before recently settling at Market Hill, which is open year-round. Baby sister Madelyn Peterson occasionally holds down the fort at the Renouveau showroom and Bella’s while her sisters are away on business.
“There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes,” Peterson says. “I help wherever I can. I’m so proud of my sisters. I just love being with them, always. Plus I have a house that smells spectacular at all times, and I get to travel to Europe and hunt for treasures.”
Peterson hints at her having an expanded role in the family businesses in the future.
Before the pandemic, Radack would travel to Europe two to four times per year to fill her containers. The relationships she has made overseas have paid off, as Radack was able to continue to source and ship antiques to Texas despite the travel bans.
“Interestingly enough, the pandemic helped my business. People were stuck at home, so they wanted to make their spaces more beautiful,” Radack notes.
When they’re not working, Round Top also serves as a respite and gathering spot for the three women to catch up and enjoy sister time.
“I feel the most at home and peaceful the moment I cruise into town,” muses Carr. “Ashley, Madelyn and I have a little route. We love Prost for starters (and pizza during the big shows) and then of course Market Hill, Bader Ranch, The Stone Cellar, or Lulu’s for dinner.