What began as a business in the heart of New Orleans is now lighting up The Woodlands.
Jeff Ber and his wife, Michelle, opened French Marketing Lighting on I-45 in 2011 with a focus on selling handmade lanterns. Originally, the store was established as Lagniappe Lighting in 2002 in New Orleans.
Ber is the third generation of his family to work in the lighting industry. His grandfather started an electrical supply house in New Orleans in the late 1940s, opening a lighting showroom a decade later. His father now runs that business.
Ber grew up working with his father and grandfather until 2005, when he teamed up with a friend in the web development business to start selling gas lanterns online.
"Right before Hurricane Katrina, I was scheduled to run the business full time," he said.
After Hurricane Katrina, Ber did get his own store selling lanterns online, but in 2011, he decided to sell more than lanterns, moving more into the specialty lighting business.
"I didn't want to compete with my family, so we decided to move out here to The Woodlands," Ber said. "We had friends who lived out here, and after having traveled here numerous times, seeing how the area was growing, we decided to open up a lighting store."
Over the past three years, the store has blossomed into a larger business offering other products, including copper and bronze lanterns, outdoor lighting, ceiling fans, chandeliers, sconces and lamps. Products range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars.
In addition to selling products from some of the oldest lighting companies, Ber has looked around the country to establish a collection of distinctive works that feature the latest design trends.
He said social media websites like Pinterest enable customers to be able to better communicate ideas.
Ber found that much of the lighting showrooms he had seen looked similar, and he wanted something different for his store. Ber established relationships with factories that provide more distinctive offerings as well as custom pieces.
"When you come into our store, you will see things you don't necessarily see in other places," Ber said. "I like to offer more handmade looks and less that look mass produced."
Some of his favorite items in the store are hand-painted wooden chandeliers featuring a distressed treatment. He also prefers newer lantern styles, such as those that feature an open, square design that can be used over kitchen islands and in foyers.
Business has been so good over the past three years that Ber is moving the store later this year to Magnolia as part of an expansion into a freestanding location. He would only say that the building is under construction, and the new store will offer more products, including a wiring selection.
Let there be light
French Market Lighting specializes in offering a variety of distinctive southern-style lighting in an array of designs.
Styles of lights
- Sconce – General term for a wall-mounted light that typically has a paper or fabric shade, good for either side of mirrors or down a hallway
- Outdoor lighting – Can be post-mounted, gas or electric; styles could be landscape lighting for paths, lighting for trees or washing a wall, as well as floodlights or ceiling fans
- Chandelier – Anything hanging from a ceiling; typically have crystals, but more modern ones are multi-arm with shades
- Pendant – Single-headed lights commonly found over a kitchen island
- Lantern – A similar look to the pendant but larger with multiple lights inside
French Market Lighting, 25403-A I-45 N., The Woodlands 281-298-5200 , www.frenchmarketlighting.com, Hours: Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Closed Sunday.