ShopTalk video: Summerour Lamps
Ever since the mailing went out to 6,000 announcing Summerour Lamps is selling everything, customers have been streaming into the Charlotte-based custom lamp design and repair shop.
“The last couple of weeks have been really emotional, with customers coming in, wishing me well,” owner Paul Summerour, 74, said earlier this month. He’s retiring after 45 years and has sold the property at 2220 Thrift Road.
Property records show Summerour sold the 20,000-square-foot building and warehouse for $850,000 to Lucky Dog Charlotte Property LLC. Plans include turning the site into a dog boarding and brewery place, according to Summerour.
Summerour’s son, Eric, 48, says he hopes to continue the family business in another Charlotte location. For now, he’s glad that his father is embracing his next phase, which the elder Summerour says will involve international travel.
“It’s been an interesting run,” Paul Summerour says. “I’m actually working with third generation now” - first grandmothers, then mothers, now their daughters.
It wasn’t unusual for longtime clients to say “Just ask Paul to do that for me” on tricky repairs or custom request, Eric Summerour says.
“He’s always wanting to give somebody the best value for their dollar,” says the son of his father. “He’s gone above and beyond lighting up Charlotte.
After school job
Glowing light fixtures hang from the ceiling inside the store off Freedom Drive and West Morehead Street. Shelves on the showroom floor and in the warehouse in back were packed with lamp bases and shades earlier this month, all part of the 50 percent off sale.
The Summerours call this three businesses in one: It’s here that Paul created a wholesale line that showed at furniture markets in High Point, Atlanta and Dallas. Customers come in for lamp repairs. The business also does site work. It’s certified with Underwriters Laboratories, the product safety certification company.
“Paul built our bell jars that go over our kitchen island. That was 13 years ago. I’ve been coming here ever since,” says customer Reneé Thomasson, visiting the shop on a recent day to get the wiring checked on an antique chandelier.
Summerour started on this path while in high school, at West Mecklenburg. He’d work afternoons at the defunct Peggy Houston’s Lamps and Accessories, learning how to do repairs: “It was just a fun, fun place to work.”
When he went into the army in 1963, he worked in a lamp and shade store in Santa Rosa, Calif. After he was discharged, the owner asked him to stay on, but Summerour wanted to return to Charlotte so his children could grow up around their grandparents.
He returned working at Peggy Houston’s, which changed ownership hands. Eventually, Summerour was presented with an opportunity to buy the business, and moved it from Independence Boulevard to its current location.
Summerour Lamps has worked with country clubs and churches around town, rewiring lighting fixtures and bringing them up to code. He’s always enjoyed figuring out the best fix. “You use woodworking, metalworking, imagination, and a little bit of creativity, trying to enter what somebody has in mind trying to create.”
Fond memories of church project
A favorite memory of Summerour’s is working with his son, John, in 1998, restoring three silver-and-crystal chandeliers in the sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church in uptown.
The months-long project involved cleaning, rewiring and converting the gas portion of the chandeliers over to electric. On the day the lights were reinstalled, word spread, and about 100 or so filled the sanctuary to watch. They turned the power on.
“All the sudden we heard this round of applause. I said John, enjoy this, you don’t usually get this instant gratification.”
Two years later, John passed away from complications from a lung transplant. Years earlier, in 1980, the family endured a dual tragedy: 9-year old son, Michael, died from a brain tumor, and wife, Jennilea, died from breast cancer.
Those family illnesses, Summerour recalled, are when he felt most challenged in running the business. After John died, Eric and his wife moved to Florida for several years. When Eric returned, he became more involved in “the more mundane parts of the business, from his standpoint,” such as invoicing and other nuts-and-bolts duties. “He’s decided this is what he wants to do in the future.”
“I think the reputation and the name alone is what people come for,” Eric says, about his intention to continue the business. “We’ve helped people for a long time, and I’d like to continue that tradition and keep the name out there.”