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MUSCATINE, Iowa -For much of the past decade, Muscatine Mall has become known for vacant storefronts and empty halls - but a Muscatine business owner wants to help change that.

Piper Beason, 41, opened Friends Candle Shed in the mall two weeks ago after moving the store from 305 E. Second St.

"It's not the '80s rockin' mall yet, but I have lots of plans for bringing back the mall," said Beason. She said the mall's owners are making efforts to fix it up and have made rent affordable.

Beason, a candle maker and creative designer, moved the Candle Shed to the mall after 10 years in Downtown Muscatine.

The store is known for its maze of displays and at the mall, Beason was able to start from scratch, designing and personalizing the layout.

All of her soy candles are hand-poured and recently Beason switched from glass containers made in China to metal containers made in the United States out of recycled material.

"I really wanted to have made-in-America products, plus I like this switch because the metal containers are lighter and easier to ship to out-of-town customers," Beason said.

Popular scents include love spell, bamboo grass, acai berry, best friends, Fruit Loops and the banana -scented favorite: monkey farts. Customers can bring in clean, used containers for refills or jelly jars or mugs to be filled with soy wax for a low-cost gift.

Beason also makes hand-made, themed bird houses.

Her mother, Sharon Wilson, sells antiques and her brand of glycerin soaps called Sweet Repose at Friends Candle Shed. Wilson has sold her goods at many other local stores and out-of-town antique malls in the past.

Comeback of the mall

The Candle Shed is at the mall entrance near Tan World in the north end of the mall.

Beason said Berlin Pro Shop and Trophy Center, also new to the mall, is helping to attract customers to her neck of the woods. She is also excited to see that a Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches shop is under construction in the former Subway location near her store.

Beason, a lady known for her big smile and big heart, is also thrilled to have plenty of parking in the front lot.

"We now have tons of parking and snow removal, so in the winter our customers can get to us," Beason said.

Beason's love for her business shows when she talks about the bumpy road she's traveled over the past few years. Beason's business partner and husband, Matt Beason, died in 2007 leaving Beason broken hearted and lacking her usual vibrant personality and love for life and her business. She got to the point that she didn't even feel like opening her shop on some days.

That's not going to happen any more.

"I'm ready for a comeback. I love the ambiance of this place and I am ready to work hard to make this shop better than ever," she said.

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