Tulsa Candle Store Owner Inspires Others Through Cancer Recovery

Thursday, August 27th 2009, 4:39 pm
By: News On 6

By Rick Wells, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Leslie Umfleet is the owner of the Secret Garden store at 81st and Harvard. She is knowledgeable about the latest products in candles and defusers, or as she calls it: "fragrance without the flame."

"These reeds are what emit the fragrance," Leslie Umfleet said.

Leslie and Michael Umfleet operate the Secret Garden Candle Company, a company Michael started 18 years ago.

Michael Umfleet is the fragrance developer. What's his next project?

"Truthfully, my next project is to make sure she is OK," Michael said of his wife.

That's where this story of a successful small business in a down economy took a turn.

"A year and two weeks ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer," Leslie Umfleet said.

The couple had planned to open a third store.  Michael wanted to scrap the idea, but Leslie said no - she needed the store. She needed to be busy and keep working.

"There's not a day that somebody didn't walk up to me and say, ‘I did this five years ago and you're gonna be OK.'"

The store was her therapy. She found others walking the same walk.

"I can't fix it. I can't cure it. I can't change it," Leslie said. "If I can help somebody like complete strangers helped me..."

One of those strangers is Ginger Nichols who came in to the shop while Leslie was working through her chemo.

"She said you look beautiful, have a great day," Leslie said.

That was the day Ginger found out she had cancer too.

They came through it together. Now they are cancer free together.

"It's hard to know how you touch peoples' lives and don't realize," Michael Umfleet said.

Leslie got up, went to work every day, and through all of it, was an inspiration.