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Art of Navigation: A Chandlery at Pier 38

I’ll take at least two, if by sea

If you walk into Art of Navigation: A Chandlery at Pier 38 near Townsend Street and are confused that you aren’t in a marine supply center, you won’t be the first person to find yourself in that state of mind. These days, a "chandlery" is known more commonly as a marine supply store, but a "chandler" has been traditionally known as one who makes candles, which is what they do there.

As store owner and candle designer (or chandler) Linda Marshall explained to me, in the 18th century, chandlers often set up shop on the wharves to provide candles for lighting onboard the ships. As time went on, they added other essential supplies for the sea-going vessels, such as ropes, oil, paint, etc. This shop brings the word back to its original meaning.

Art of Navigation moved into their new home a few of weeks ago, just a couple of steps around the corner from the previous space they occupied for a two years, also in Pier 38. In the new place, the light that filters through the panes of the immense windows lining almost every wall in the store entices you to step into their space. The space is dotted with nautical touches, including a wooden row boat leaning bow up against one of the support beams and a couple of models of sail boats placed atop the tables. It’s such an inviting space that people rent it out for private events. Check with the store for details.

The shop keeps it simple. The candles are made in just a few sizes and one basic shape. Pillar candles come in short sizes for $9.00 and tall sizes for $12.00. Patterns such as dots, bold stripes, flower buds, blossoms in colors like pink, blue or green are embedded into the wax. Larger lantern size candles with a hollow core are available as well and go for $18.00. When the wick has burned down in the lanterns, you can place a tea light inside, including a scented one. I mention this only because these days, many people like the scented candles, but here it’s all about illuminating the space in the best light possible, not the smell. A great thing about these candles is that they burn clean -- they won’t drip over the side or melt down into a mushy shape. Of course, you should always be careful to place your candles on a safe surface, so they’ve got plates with large floral designs for $3.00. By the way, don’t forget to check for bargains when browsing the candles. You can frequently find discontinued designs for at least three dollars off their regular price.

A handful of local designers, along with Linda, create the designs on these candles. The artwork is also found on their gift bags, great for packaging corporate holiday gifts, party favors, or whatever you can think up. The candles come in reusable containers and can be customized to suit any taste or theme, and they’ll ship all over the country. Check with the store for pricing.

Speaking of holiday events, they’ve got Halloween candles with craggy old witches, scary cats and pumpkins in the lantern size. For Christmas, there are candy cane stripes and sparkly snow-like swirls.

For a platform to showcase your candles, there is furniture also created by local designers. The forms are clean, sophisticated and dark, but not heavy. In the color of espresso, there’s a TV armoire with retractable doors for $1,200.00, an eight drawer JDC dresser for $950.00 (on sale) and side tables for $210.00 (floor model sale price). In light caramel, there are block stools for $145.00 each ($250.00 for both). There’s also a brown leather table for $100.00.

Other stands outs for me included totes made of safety fence and nylon. Perfect for beach, boat or pool, you can choose between bags made of either green or orange plastic fence for $40. I also liked the light yellow and blue vases that looked a bit like rounded ice cream cones for $15.00 each.

Hours do vary from time to time. If the weather is good or there’s an event going on, they extend their hours earlier or later accordingly. During the baseball season, the store is open later, up to an hour after the end of each game. Next time you are strolling along the Embarcadero for exercise or heading over to the Ferry Building to shop, drop by the store.