In 1999, Jan Clouse, owner of Carolina Lanterns & Lighting, was building a home in Park West when she decided she wanted gas lanterns to flank her front porch.
“Back then, there just weren’t gas lights in Charleston. They didn’t exist,” she said. “I traveled to a few lighting showrooms, but I was snubbed.”
Instead of giving up, Clouse decided to start her own copper, gas and electric lantern business.
“I thought to myself, there has to be a better way,” she said.
She sourced out a coppersmith and had him make custom lanterns for her. She hustled to find customers but realized quickly that, just as she was, many other people were interested in authentic gas lanterns.
“I made up an email and a website, included my home phone number and started a company on the spot,” she said.
Today, the small business that she created almost two decades ago is a national enterprise with 20 employees, five of whom are ALA-certified lighting specialists, and customers all over the country – including Barbara Streisand, who purchased lanterns from Clouse for her home in Malibu. Seventy percent of the lanterns are sold nationally and internationally, while 30 percent are sold locally. She started out focusing on gas lanterns, but, in 2005, expanded to all lighting options since she saw a need for that as well.
The company also owns a 12,500-square-foot warehouse off Clements Ferry Road on Deanna Lane, a clearance showroom – Carolina Lighting Clearance Center – and a 6,000-square-foot retail showroom off Chuck Dawley Boulevard in Mount Pleasant.
“I was literally working out of the trunk of my car when I first started,” she said. “Now we are providing all the electric lighting and gas lanterns for the 2018 Idea Houses for both Coastal Living magazine in Beaufort and Southern Living in Austin.”
Her daughter, Jennifer Crider, works with Clouse as the vice president of operations.
“She started with me 12 years ago,” Clouse said. “She’s the numbers person and I’m the salesperson.”
Clouse expanded her sales force and has hired Jamey Nelson as the company’s vice president of sales.
“Together we are a really strong team,” Clouse said with a smile.
For Clouse and Crider, the future of Carolina Lanterns & Lighting remains bright.
“I’m a native of Charleston, and I appreciate its rich history and culture,” Clouse said. “In fact, I’ve just come up with a new line of lighting, inspired by the architecture of the Lowcountry.”
By Theresa Stratford