Made in The Berkshires | The Lamplighter: South Berkshire entrepreneur turns hobby into profitable pastime
GREAT BARRINGTON — Michael Cleary remembers exactly what he was doing when he came up with the idea of making specialty lamps.
He and his wife, Kathleen, were at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston right after the 2014 Boston Marathon.
"And we saw all these items with the Boston Marathon logo on them," said Cleary a longtime marathoner who has run Boston five times since 1971.
"Really, there was just about every item you could imagine," said Cleary, who has run 35 total marathons. "Key chains, bumper stickers, clothing, socks, watches, everything."
Cleary and his wife own The Lamplighter, a lighting store at 162 Main St. They've owned it for the past 11 years. So it isn't too hard to see where his train of thought was headed.
"That's where we got the idea," said Kathleen. "Michael said, 'We could make lamps like this.' "
Specialty lamps were born.
Simple to make
The actual design is relatively straightforward. Cleary fills a pint beer glass with plain sanitized pool sand and attaches a light fixture to the top. He drills a small hole near the bottom of the lamp to accommodate the plug. The entire process takes about 15 minutes, he said.
This story would be about an interesting novelty if Clearly's speciality lamp business hadn't begun to take off this year.
The lamps are advertised as specialty lamps, rather than lamps with a specific logo. The Clearys try to make sure there are no copyright issues when they produce the items.
While many of the lamps they sell have logos for national organizations, such as the Boston Marathon, the Clearys have found that their most popular items are the ones with local connections.
Last year, for example, Cleary made a number of custom lamps for graduates of Lenox Memorial High School with the school's name and date on the front.
This year, he said, he made special graduation lamps for the seniors at St. Joseph's Central High School in Pittsfield.
Several local businesses have also ordered speciality lamps. One speciality lamp that was already on display at a local business led to one of Clearly's most interesting projects, Kathleen said.
"There was a man whose father owned a pub in New Jersey," she said. "The pub was closed a while ago. But the man saw one of our lamps in the Heritage House in Lenox and he wanted one for his dad. Somehow, he found a logo for his father's old pub and had a lamp made out of it."
The point, said Cleary, is that he can make a specialized lamp for just about anything. He has also done lamps for wedding parties or just about any kind of family celebration, such as a graduation, engagement, first baby, promotion, move or anything else that might want to be commemorated.
Cleary can be reached at The Lamplighter at 413-528-3448 or on his cell phone at 413-822-4542.
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