Biz Buzz: Local resident launches candle business; campground to expand; tattoo shop relocates; general store gets overhaul

Biz Buzz shares business tidbits from the tri-states. This week, we highlight developments in Platteville, Wis., Apple River, Ill., and Monticello and Bellevue, Iowa.

While stuck inside her apartment during the pandemic last year, Ali Smith decided to take up a new hobby.

She loved buying new soaps, lotions, perfumes and anything that smelled good, and she landed on the idea of candle making to fill the time.

Not long after she purchased her first starter kit, a business blossomed.

“I started having people ask me to make candles for them,” she said. “That’s kind of how it became a little business out of my Platteville apartment. I make them with 100% soy wax.”

So far, Smith estimates she has made about 150 candles and has recently started selling candles from her Ali J. Candles collection to AJ Boutique on Main Street in Dubuque.

“They are organic soy candles, and what’s great about soy candles is they are naturally resourced,” Smith said. “It helps the local farming economy, and they are nontoxic and they are hypoallergenic.”

Her goal, eventually, is to expand to other local storefronts, make a range of sizes — she currently makes only 8-ounce candles — and continue to grow her inventory. Next month, she will have a themed launch featuring “cozy”-scented candles, and in February, she will introduce Valentine’s Day-themed candles, with fragrances like berry and cream.

“Dubuque has a lot of amazing opportunities for small businesses,” she said. “Even though I am in Platteville, I am close enough that I get to be part of that. It is fun to come up with all of the mixtures and naming them — that’s really fun.”

The candles are $20 apiece and can be purchased on Etsy at or by messaging through her Facebook page, or Instagram at @shopalijcandles.


After a busy summer, Apple Canyon Lake officials are planning an expansion of the campgrounds and will soon be constructing a pavilion.

“This year, we saw an uptick in activity and the campground was a popular spot,” said Shaun Nordlie, general manager of Apple Canyon Lake Property Owners Association. “We have a waiting list to get into the campground, which is really trying to accommodate more people.”

Nordlie said they will be adding 32 more campsites, bringing the total to 73. The pavilion will give guests an area to gather and hold events.

Work is expected to begin late this spring or summer, he said.

For more information about staying at Apple Canyon Lake, visit


After more than a decade of operating his tattoo shop in Anamosa, Dennis Wilmoth, owner of Cherry Bomb Tattoo, reopened his business in Monticello.

“I went ahead and found a new location,” he said. “It’s the same size and still me tattooing.”

The new storefront is located at 115 East First St., and he is currently only accepting clients by appointment. Cherry Bomb Tattoo can be reached at 319-202-6590.

“I am enjoying Monticello,” he said. “It seems like a positive town, and a little bit bigger town.”


Simply Parker’s General Store is currently out of commission as the store owner works to remodel the store and ensure it is stocked up and ready for summer camping season.

Misty Parker-Hoffman, owner of the general store in Bellevue, is stocking her store full of frozen meats from Edgewood Locker, camping supplies like propane, and other goodies including wine and beer to prepare for the opening of Bellevue’s latest attraction, Off Shore Resort. The business will feature the reopened restaurant, hotel, renovated event center, an expanded campground with 173 seasonal and overnight campsites, a manmade lake with water amusements and an outdoor pool.

“It will be the same store, but it will just look a lot different,” she said. “I am super excited about offering more to the community.”

Parker-Hoffman said she is hoping to reopen the store March 1.

“We are just super excited to be able to expand our business while a new business comes to town,” she said. “I think it makes it more exciting for all of us.”

Simply Parker’s General Store is located at 29418 U.S. 52 and will be open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Sunday. To contact the business, call 563-872-2045.