An Interview with Michael McPolin on the Power of Scents and the Inspiration Behind Birch & Main

Where did your love of candles and scents come from? Did you always want to own your own store?

It might sound crazy, but since I was little I've always wanted to own my own store (or be an interior designer). Also, I come from a family of a lot of women so candles were always around. But the real trigger was in my past life when I was gifted this beautiful (and expensive candle) from a previous employee. I'm not sure what ticked but that was the moment I became candle crazy. From then on out I would go out on weekly candle buying trips and that grew into learning the ropes and trying to create them on my own.

What is the inspiration behind your products and scents?

The sense of smell is so powerful. It's one of our strongest senses. It's amazing how a simple scent can evoke such vivid memories or even profoundly change a person's mood (or get them to pursue a career!). For instance, my grandma had these huge Lilac bushes in her front yard and whenever I smell Lilac I think of sitting on her porch in the summer picking her flowers. Honestly, if I smell any candles I feel there is always something I can tie back to that fragrance. So that's really the core of our business - evoke your fondest memories through scent. When we name our candle fragrances we want them to mean something when someone goes to smell it, but we don't want the name giving their brain too much of a preconceived notion - so it’s a fine balance.


For example, our Southampton candle was inspired by the sophistication and upscale atmosphere of the namesake seaside town. It's beachy without it being overtly seasonal. We wanted to create a scent that was clean, but not necessarily reminiscent of linen or cotton. It was key to keep true to what first comes to mind when we think about the Hamptons- the beach with a slight twist. The core of the fragrance needed to have that salty aroma that fills the air on our favorite beach days while infusing slight floral undertones to the fragrance to add the perfect delicate touch. We wanted the Hamptons year round, not just the Hamptons during the short summer months.

Now let’s have a little fun!

Favorite Scent?

I have so many favorite scents it's almost too hard to choose, but I always find myself circling back to our Teakwood + Tobacco candle. We also did a Hazelnut Coffee candle that I am obsessed with. I was playing around with some Hazelnut scents and at the time I was actually drinking coffee. Silly story but that was my "DUH" moment. Personally, I must go through at least three of those candles a week!

What scent/smell do you try to achieve in your store?

We mostly use a Vanilla scent in our retail shop. It’s a scent almost everyone can relate to and it’s a very comforting, warm fragrance. Vanilla blends well with many scents so when you’re trying to pick out your favorite candle scent, Vanilla usually won’t interfere. However, depending on the season we do change it up a bit.  


Scent you would like to capture, but haven’t quite been able to yet?

While our product lines are vegan and we choose not to use any animal products, I love the smell of leather. I've tried multiple times to nail the perfect leather scent but have not been successful as of yet!

Scent you can’t stand?

I don't love all scents though, particularly floral! Can't stand it. I've always been a fan of the deeper, woody noted scents and while there are a few mixed florals I do burn, I typically avoid floral scents altogether in my personal use.

Favorite part of living on Long Island?

I love taking trips out to the East End and often find inspiration out there - it just feels like a different world. The art, culture, trails, beaches, food (yes, our pizza and bagels). I love everything about this little island we call home.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?

If I didn't start Birch and Main I would most likely still be working (as I was in my past life) in contemporary fashion.

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