It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention. Necessity inspired Jan Clouse to become the founder of one of the country’s most successful lighting businesses – Carolina Lanterns & Lighting.
“In 1999, we were building our own home in Park West. We wanted gas lanterns. At the time, no one was using natural gas – they were using propane,” she explained.
After an exhaustive search, she eventually located a business that sold gas lanterns and purchased much of its inventory. Clouse then decided to reach out to local contractors and designers with her new-found collection.
“I operated out of the trunk of my car,” she said, adding that she eventually opened a small office on Coleman Boulevard.
“At that time, we only sold copper lighting,” she said. “But by 2005, we found that many customers wanted one-stop shopping for all types of lighting and fans.”
So Clouse converted a former auto supply store to a 6,000-square-foot showroom. It took jumping through a few hoops regarding building codes and even involved hanging sturdy airplane wire to display the heavier lights. The result was an expansive collection of chandeliers, fans and lanterns.
Carolina Lanterns & Lighting has often been voted the best local lighting retailer and has received accolades from Southern Living, Veranda, Coastal Living and Dallas Style & Design. Its pieces have been featured on multiple television programs, including “Extreme Makeover.” And Clouse’s lanterns have been part of more than a dozen prestigious “idea houses,” projects sponsored by leaders in the home décor field, including this summer’s Coastal Living idea house in Newport, Rhode Island.
But Clouse will not allow the business to rest on its laurels.
“My employees receive extensive training and continuing education. I even send them to Chicago for ALA certification,” she said.
Their expertise has clearly paid off. Because of the company’s nationally renowned reputation, “We sell to people all over the country,” said Clouse. “Barbara Streisand is a customer, with our lanterns at her house in Malibu.”
Clouse’s first career in the shipping industry had her traveling more than she liked, but she knows that there is more excitement for her closer to home.
“I really have four businesses – our contracting clients, our 12,500-square-foot warehouse on Clements Ferry Road, a clearance showroom located at the warehouse, and, of course, the retail showroom which we will expand this summer. I look forward to my next adventure in lighting right here in Charleston,” she commented.
by Mary Coy