“Light Bulb Moments” According to Jan Clouse, founder and president of Carolina Lanterns and Accessories, what homeowners were doing before she opened her business five years ago was the “equivalent of getting all dressed up in formal attire with their best jewelry and then slipping on loafers as they went out the door.” “It’s sad,” she signs. “There are many beautiful old homes in downtown Charleston with these little black hardware store lights.” Carolina Lanterns specializes in handcrafted copper lanterns that do not rust, pit or lose color and can be fueled by natural gas, propane or electricity. The most popular styles are exact reproductions of specific lights on historic Charleston buildings dating back to the 1850s. They are named for the area of Charleston from which they were borrowed such as: The Ashley Avenue, The High Battery, The Traded Street and the St. Michaels. And each style can be mounted in ways to conform to all homes, yards and outbuildings, whether the owner wants one lantern or one on every corner.
Next to the unique products (or “House Jewelry”, as Jan calls them), Carolina Lantern’s most important ingredient for success is customer service. They will come to your house, size up the job, come back with a variety of appropriate lanterns and actually hold them up so you can see what they will look like. They will have a replacement usually in two days, and they will come to your home to check on a problem and recommend a solution, even if it’s not their installation. But the customer service policy closet to the heart of Jan Clouse would be there is “no job too small.” Years ago when she was building her house in Charleston, she went to a local lighting store to choose gas lanterns for the front door. The first question the clerk asked her was, “What is your lighting allowance?” The answer was “somewhere in the area of $3,000,” which seems rather impressive for two lanterns. It apparently didn’t impress the salesperson, however, who proceeded to turn her back on Jan and help another customer.
The experience has become something of a legend in the Charleston retail community. “A week doesn’t go by that someone doesn’t come in to the store asking, “Where is the woman who was snubbed in the lighting store?” Jan said, “I think it probably helps business because almost everyone has had an experience like that.” In five years Carolina Lanterns has grown so much that their customer base extends to every state in the U.S. and into Canada. Their distinctive products grace almost every home in the I’On and Park West, the French Quarter Inn, 1 Vendue Range, the Bristol, Home Magazine’s 2004 Home of the Year, the past three years of Charleston Symphony Designer Houses and the list goes on. There is simply no substitute for an original. When you take into account the graceful lanterns, the unbeatable customer service and the only place the find “the woman who was snubbed, “Carolina Lanterns is truly a Charleston original.