Voted the #1 Lighting Store in the Charleston area multiple times, Rick’s Lighting + Home is a community favorite not only for lighting expertise, but for the welcoming environment that instantly puts customers at ease.
For 34 years, Rick’s Lighting has been a destination for generations of Charlestonians —it’s where your parents and their parents bought their lamps, lighting fixtures and bulbs, as well as where electricians bought supplies. Having stood on the same property along a major road for as long as many local families can remember is one reason for the non-stop foot traffic.
There are two other factors contributing to the steady flow of customers: trust & service. Owner Rick Mappus’ philosophy – “Buy right and pass the savings on to the customer” – has kept customers loyal even in the era of online shopping. Similarly, unlike digital retail, where there are no “real” people smiling to greet them or engaging in helpful conversations during their shopping experience, the warm and congenial atmosphere at Rick’s is as much of an attraction to Charleston-area consumers as the product selection.
Rick’s grandfather, Eggert Heinsohn, established his electrical supply business (Heinsohn Electric) in the 1940s and remained at its helm, grooming his son/Rick’s father Fred (George Frederick Mappus) to take over when he retired. Under his dad’s tenure, Rick Mappus fondly remembers helping to hang fixtures as a kid. He would work occasionally at Heinsohn Electric during school breaks, but after graduation embarked on a career as a computer programmer.
Over time, Rick became less enchanted with the computer world right at the time when his father needed help in growing the business. The lighting industry had been changing over the span of a generation and Fred wanted to transition the business from electrical supply to lighting showroom and asked Rick if he would open up a lighting showroom on the property.
“We started from scratch with an 800-sq.-ft. showroom,” Rick recalls of establishing his namesake store. Noting, “I’ve been hanging fixtures my whole life,” he was able to merchandise the space rather quickly and with more aesthetic flair than the interior of an electrical supply house. For the basic lines, he retained the reps who called on Heinsohn Electric, but it was time to expand into more decorative lighting lines that would appeal to the many tract home builders entering the booming real estate market in the Charleston area.
All of the coastal cities in South Carolina have benefitted from the migration of Northerners who have moved to the state either to retire or invest in a vacation home. The Charleston area in particular has increased due to recent business opportunities brought by Volvo, Mercedes, and Boeing establishing manufacturing facilities there.
“We’ve had a lot of customers who have moved here from the Midwest and the North,” Rick comments. As the Greater Charleston area has expanded, so has the store’s reach. “We’re now considered centrally located and have a surprising amount of regular clients driving in from Mt. Pleasant and Summerville roughly 40 to 45 minutes away,” he states.
To accommodate those various tastes, buying for the store requires tapping into a broad assortment of styles. Rick and his wife, Cynthia, attend the Dallas and High Point Markets regularly to purchase not only lighting, but also furniture, accessories, and wall art.
“We went into furniture three years ago by bringing in bar stools,” Rick says. Those sold so well with customers clamoring for more that the couple brought in larger furniture pieces – such as tables, chairs, and cabinets – with much success.
Five years ago, Rick’s Lighting established an Outlet Center in the back building that was Heinsohn Electric and had been used for extra storage. At first, the Outlet Center served as the place to move old inventory plus close-outs and over-runs from manufacturers. Almost immediately it became a destination for the surrounding community, and often drew browsers to the main store just a few steps away.
Noticing the uptick in floor traffic thanks to the Outlet Center, Rick and Cynthia decided to move that portion of their business into the back room of the showroom where the store’s stock was kept. This relocation meant customers must pass through the main portion of Rick’s Lighting – therefore automatically perusing the new merchandise on display – on their way to the outlet. This step further increased the amount of foot traffic inside the showroom and, in fact, converted many clearance browsers into customers who decided to purchase a higher-priced new item they had noticed while walking through the store. The Outlet Center merchandise sells through so regularly that Rick and Cynthia often purchase lighting, mirrors, and furniture specifically for it.
In addition to decades of word-of-mouth referrals among Charleston-area families, Rick’s Lighting does newspaper advertising, participates in local home shows, and has an active presence on Houzz, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook. It’s not the former computer programmer who handles that part of the business, however; it’s Cynthia.
Cynthia Mappus grew up in South Carolina, but didn’t meet Rick until one of her sorority sisters introduced them. Now married for 26 years, Cynthia raised their kids as a stay-at-home mom while Rick worked at the store. “The business was totally foreign to me, although our boys grew up working with their dad,” she recounts. Later, Cynthia utilized her background and bachelor’s degree in Communications by serving as Public Relations Manager at Gibbes Museum of Art for seven years.
That marketing experience led to her involvement in social media for Rick’s Lighting. “He’s let me dust off the dinosaur bones from my P.R. days,” she jokes. Over the past few years, Cynthia has handled all of the store’s marketing efforts.
“She’s been a life-saver and a huge driving force in getting us to where we are today,” Rick remarks. Part of that strategy includes actively participating on Pinterest and Houzz – where Cynthia posts design inspiration – as well as Instagram and Facebook, where she features products and promotes store events.
For the past two years (2017 and 2018), Rick’s Lighting has received the “People’s Choice” Award in the Lighting Store category. “We try to make anyone who comes in here feel important,” Rick says. The showroom has also won a “Best Lighting Store” award from Charleston Living magazine. “It’s so nice to see all of the efforts of our salespeople getting recognized by these awards,” Cynthia adds.
Most of all, Rick and Cynthia are thrilled that shopping at Rick’s Lighting has become a tradition among local families. “It’s really sweet to hear a customer come in and say she wants her [grown] child’s first lighting fixtures to come from Rick’s,” Cynthia comments.
The recent addition of the words “+ Home” to the showroom name is a nod to the popularity of the store’s selection of furniture and mirrors. “People have always known us for lighting, but now we’re having people come in specifically looking for furniture,” she states. “It can get crazy-busy in here with a lot of customers in a small space, but we’re so thankful.”