SHARING THE LIGHT

BY PATRA TAYLOR | PHOTOGRAPHY BY HOLGER OBENAUS

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Jan Clouse has come a long way since she began selling custom-made brass and copper lanterns from the trunk of her car in 1999. From such humble beginnings, she grew her business from a few square feet of trunk space into the fastest growing lighting and accessories firm in the Charleston area.

Today, Carolina Lanterns and Lighting anchors the busy corner of Chuck Dawley Boulevard and Bowman Road at the epicenter of Mount Pleasant’s latest building boom and provides lighting solutions to individual homeowners, local electrical and general contractors as well as production and custom homebuilders.

In late May, the Lowcountry’s “Lantern Lady” made waves in the local homebuilding and remodeling industry when she opened the door to the latest addition to her personal lighting empire. Carolina Lighting Clearance Center is a 12,500- square-foot discount lighting showroom filled floor to ceiling with beautiful high-quality home lighting fixtures and accessories. “Customers would have to travel as far as Atlanta or Charlotte to get anything close to the shopping experience they now have available to them at my new lighting showroom,” states Clouse. “It’s a first in the Charleston area.”

Other than the fact that both of Clouse’s retail stores specialize in selling high-end home lighting fixtures and accessories, she notes that Carolina Lighting Clearance Center is built on an entirely different business model than her original retail store. Carolina Lantern and Lighting is a full-service interior and exterior lighting showroom, one of a select few lighting retailers in the area with industry-trained personnel to help customers with everything from selecting individual fixtures to designing custom home lighting packages. “At Carolina Lantern and Lighting, our mission will continue to be to provide the best selection and service for any lighting need,” says Clouse. “Whether you are looking for the perfect copper or brass lanterns to grace your front door, updating your home’s interior or building a new home, we are here to serve you with over 200 product lines to choose from and an experienced staff to help you make the right choices. We take pride in treating all our customers with the same personalized attention to detail.”

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Yet, as Clouse watched volume homebuilding expand in Mount Pleasant and the surrounding area, it occurred to her there was another market she could serve. “When I look around, it seems that every piece of land is being absorbed by volume builders,” she explains. “As a rule, these builders offer homebuyers only a few choices in lighting packages. It’s been my experience that people want to be different … they want something better than builder-grade light fixtures that are exactly like everyone else’s in the neighborhood. Now they can have them at prices they can afford.”

At Carolina Lighting Clearance Center, customers can expect an entirely different shopping experience than they would get at other lighting retailers, such as Carolina Lanterns and Lighting. Located just off of Clements Ferry Road in the Cainhoy area, often referred to as “the new center of Charleston,” Clouse’s discount lighting showroom is just one business situated along Deanna Lane that caters to the building industry. “It’s an ideal location for us,” she points out. “My neighbors include companies that sell blinds, shutters, cabinets, windows, flooring, granite and other homebuilding products. So we feel right at home here. And we’re adjacent to Cainhoy Village, where thousands of new homes are expected to go up in the next few years.”

Here’s how her new discount showroom works: Every week, Carolina Lighting Clearance Center receives a truckload of merchandise. “These new lighting fixtures and accessories come from one of the major suppliers we have worked with at Carolina Lanterns and Lighting for many years,” explains Clouse. “So customers can be assured this is all high-quality merchandise. We can’t tell our customers what’s coming in on the next truck because we don’t know, other than it’s different from the weeks before. There might be one of a kind, or a handful of the same item, which gives our customers the ability to make their home lighting décor truly different from their neighbors.”

According to Clouse, the warehouse is organized by product line—bath bars, sconces, pendants, chandeliers, ceiling fans, indoor lighting and outdoor lighting—and sorted by finish. “We have something for everyone,” she says. “We even have a selection of gorgeous mirrors. I loved them so much I bought a couple for my own home.”

Customers use shopping carts as they make their way around the no-frills showroom, choosing one item or a truckload of items. “At checkout, our customers are paying dealer net,” states Clouse. In other words, they are getting higher quality items at prices that compare to or beat those they would pay at the big box stores in the area.

“In everything I’ve ever done, I’ve always been motivated by doing the best job I could do… by being the best business person I could be,” concludes Clouse. “Thanks to my supplier, who had faith in me, and my incredible staff at both my locations, I think we’ve hit another home run. Carolina Lighting Clearance Center is going to redefine the local lighting industry.”

Patra Taylor is a full-time freelance writer in Mount Pleasant. Find out more at patrataylor.com.