Life In The Ozarks
Craftsmanship at the Core of Old World Lanterns’ Success
Craftsmanship is synonymous with life in the Ozarks. Glass blowers, blacksmiths, weavers, potters, wood workers, stonemasons, and broom makers have effectively established “made in the Ozarks” as a brand, suggesting not only “hand made” but also extremely “well made.” Old World Lanterns by Benoit, situated across the street from the Historic Landers Theater Building on Main Street in downtown Batesville, add to the luster of Ozark craftsmanship with an impressive line of handcrafted electric, gas, and propane lanterns. Like so many successful Ozark artisans, Brandon Benoit is building his business by elevating a utilitarian item to the level of art.
Brandon and his wife Nancy founded Old World Lanterns by Benoit, Manufacturers of Handcrafted Copper Lanterns in April 2005. He had worked for the two principal lantern manufacturers in New Orleans, Bevolo Gas and Electric Lanterns and Flambeaux Gas and Electric Lanterns. The former created the original French Quarter lantern; the latter derives its name from the torch carriers who lit the way for nighttime parades before there were street lamps, the “keepers of the light.”
Nancy worked for one of New Orleans premiere antique dealers, Maison de Provence, a direct importer of 18th and 19th century antiques from France and Italy. The couples’ combined experience is evident in the meticulous detail and old world sense of permanence that characterize each design. Several lantern designs, in addition to the popular French Quarter, are clearly influenced by historic New Orleans. Nancy Benoit has become a student of lantern history and is happy to discuss the first lanterns in New Orleans or London. That appreciation of history helps inform many of the lantern designs, like the Colonial Style, that are imbued with a sense of history.
The couple launched Old World Lanterns with a clear plan to grow slowly and deliberately, establishing their own brand by maintaining the highest standard of craftsmanship. Unlike most outdoor lanterns, which are held together by solder, Old World Lanterns are hand riveted. All brackets are handcrafted by a master blacksmith. An extensive selection of styles and sizes gives customers 65 choices, and custom design is also available. Lanterns prices begin at about $200 but a custom lantern can cost over $2,000.
Most of the styles are variations on traditional styles; the unique Cape Town, featuring a basket-like weave, is an original design. Brandon Benoit is quick to note that his designs are influenced by the architecture of the place and/or period suggested by a particular lantern, and that they often bear small stylistic touches reminiscent of that architecture. He is also proud to explain that his lanterns contain more copper than most, and that the copper helps give a warmer, richer glow.
The same focus on customer satisfaction that informs the production process also guides the sales effort. Nancy Benoit works closely with homeowners, interior designers, and contractors to select the lantern pattern that best suits an existing design theme or new construction. Her experience in the antique world is an enormous asset in finding the right model and size lantern for any situation.
The location of Old World Lanterns in the heart of Batesville’s downtown historic district can help customers who visit the store appreciate the lanterns in an extremely appropriate setting, mounted on an historical building. For a look at the real thing, two gas Williamsburg lanterns are mounted on a recently restored building at 141 W. Main, just a few blocks from the store, and large four electric French Quarter lanterns are mounted on the entrance to the cozy Pocket Park just two doors from the store. The store is also across the street from the Landers Theater Building (vintage 1907) and just a block from the Independence County Courthouse (vintage 1875), so a visit to the park and some historic sightseeing is definitely in order.
The business has, until now, been built customer by customer, with a lot of satisfied lantern owners helping to spread the word. A series of national and regional magazine ads got the word out beyond the Ozarks at first. A map on the Benoit’s office wall has a colored pin everywhere lanterns have been sold, seventeen states and counting, plus Norway. The couple recently launched a website, www.oldworldlanternsbybenoit.com, so the number of states with colored pins should be growing steadily.
Old World Lanterns by Benoit is located at 325 South Main. The store is open weekdays from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm. The telephone number is 870-698-0105.