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by Mary Beth Breckenridge

He has been called, simply, ”The Nose.”

But if there’s anything Harry Slatkin is adept at sniffing out, it’s consumer preferences.

Slatkin’s luxury candles beckon buyers with scents like Fresh Linen, Bartlett Pear and Creamy Nutmeg – complex scents that he’s convinced are what America likes. And more of America has become familiar with his Slatkin & Co. products since his candles, plug-in diffusers and other home-fragrance products started lining the shelves of Bath & Body Works stores.

The candle entrepreneur visited Akron’s Chapel Hill Mall store earlier this week in his role as president of the retailer’s home design division. Slatkin was named to that position when his company was purchased in 2005 by Ohio’s Limited Brands Inc., which owns Bath & Body Works.

He also was here promoting his Autism Speaks candle lighter, a $10 gadget he developed with Zippo to raise money for the organization of the same name. One of his twin children has autism.

Slatkin has built a business on his keen sense of smell and his ability to choose scents that appeal to his customers. For every scent he develops, he said, he’ll smell 300 or 400 samples, and he’ll continue to tweak the one he chooses until it’s right.

To Slatkin, scented candles aren’t a luxury; they’re an affordable way of enhancing our lives. The right scent can relax us and improve our moods, and with dwindling disposable incomes keeping us closer to home, he argued, that’s all the more important.

”That’s what we need when we come in the house, to leave all our cares and woes outside the door,” he said. ” . . . I guess I’m going to save the economy with one candle at a time.”

Slatkin believes scent should be an individual choice, dictated by preferences rather than trends. Smell is the keenest sense, he said, and how we react to a scent is highly personal.

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