Jim Prexta of "A Shade Better"
The result has been a new and innovative business at Prexta's three "A Shade Better" lighting stores in Northeast Ohio - making custom lampshades out of customers' digital photos.
"I saw a lampshade with a wildlife scene in an architectural magazine," Prexta remembers. "I wondered why it couldn't be done with photos. And I said well, I have a new invention. I'm making custom lampshades, photo shades."
Jim's initiative has turned into a booming local business. His three local stores now turn out every kind of custom lampshade one can imagine.
Themes range from high school and college logos and scenes from the old alma mater, to wedding photos, to a lampshade featuring a group of local soldiers serving in Iraq displaying the O-H-I-O cheer.
Some of the first and still most popular lampshades feature the professional photos of Northeast Ohio landmarks, taken by noted photographer Jim Ptacek.
"We are currently merchandising his product on about 12 different sizes of shades," Prexta said. "I thought that would be a good idea, his art is so beautiful, to put it on drum style lampshades."
Most of the business comes from customers who want to have lampshades made of photos of their children, grandkids, pets, homes, and in one case, a tractor.
Business has been growing and Prexta hopes to add staff as soon as the current custom shade makers can't keep up.
"We have ladies ready to come in and make the lampshades as soon as we increase our business," Prexta says. "So we're pushing to add jobs, made in the USA. It's just a whole lot of fun."
"It's handmade right here in our factory in Cleveland, Ohio. We're proud of that."