After retiring from careers with the State of Missouri, Ron and Brenda Berhorst wanted to put a little extra light in their lives, so to speak.
From August through November each year, the couple travels around the U.S. attending craft shows to sell unique and unusual lights for their Country Home Collection business based in Holts Summit.
So far this year Ron and Brenda have traveled to Kansas, Arkansas and Colorado, as well as making a few stops around the state starting with the Cole County Extension Fall Festival and then the Junk in the Trunk show in Lebanon and the Ozark Utopia Club Craft Show in Ozark, Missouri.
“I like the people at the shows,” Ron said. “Especially (with) the old heaters, they’ll come up and ask me, ‘How’d you do that?’”
One of their longest trips was to North Carolina for a 12-day craft show.
“It was a fun show. I’ve never been out there and half of it is just to go see different parts of the United States,” Brenda said.“They’re just fun to do and you meet some really nice people.”
Their travels began when Brenda started participating in craft shows with her sister selling mostly handsewn items. Then one day she asked Ron if he could tinker with some things to make them light up.
“I like things that light up,” Brenda said. “If it lights up, I’m a sucker.”
From that point on the pair combined their talents to transform antique items into eye-catching pieces of art that literally light up a room.
Every year their process begins in March by crafting in their basement workshop, which closely resembles an antique store. Having briefly been trained as a radio repairman in the U.S. Army and working within construction, Ron has figured out how to install lights in practically anything that Brenda’s heart desires.
“He’s one of those jack of all trades; he’s wonderful to have around,” Brenda said with a smile.
The pair started out with putting lights in coffee pots, teapots and salt and pepper shakers, and has since began taking on larger items such as holiday themed dolls holding candlesticks, old room heaters, burner pots and antique barrel lanterns that practically fill up their basement every year.
“We try and build up our inventory so that when August gets here we’ve got it done. When you go downstairs you’ll see stuff everywhere,” Brenda described. “I have a lady that comes and cleans and she’s just amazed because every time she comes it’s changed.”
Perhaps one of the most striking aspect of their craft collection is how realistic their lights look, such as a flickering flame when plugged in. They’ve even had a few instances where people have mistaken them for real fire.
“It’s real funny, like the heater over there we’ve electrified and we’ll have little old ladies come up to those heaters, especially on a cold day, and one of them told me, ‘Oh you’ve got the warmest place here’ and I looked at her and I said, ‘Does it make you warm?’ She goes ‘Oh yes, it’s wonderful,’ but all it is is a little electric light,” Brenda said.
“And we’ve had little kids come up and try and blow them out when we used to have everything on a remote,” Ron added. “So I could sit there and they’d blow it and they’d blow it again and I’d click it and everything would go off.
“The moms would go, ‘What’d you do? What’d you do?’ so I’d tell the kid ‘OK, just blow on it again’ and when they would I’d click it and it all came back on. By that time the moms would see the remote and they knew that their child hadn’t done anything wrong,” Ron explained as the couple laughed together.
Neither the flicker lights or the silicone lights they use with their crafts get very hot and can last one to two years depending on how often they’re on.
“I tell everybody the little flicker lights, if you plug that in and don’t ever turn it off that light will last for probably a year or possibly two, they just don’t burn out,” Brenda said.
Ron and Brenda enjoy making a variety of pieces that can be used as a perfect holiday gift, a luminous house decoration or even a nightlight all ranging in cost.
“We try to carry things in different price ranges,” Brenda said. “You just run into a lot of different people wanting different things or something real versatile.”
Astonished by how Ron and Brenda can light up antiques, some customers will even ask them to install lights in old items they have at home.
“Some people, when they see things we’ve got, they’ll want to know if they have something real similar if they can bring it to them to electrify it,” Brenda said. “In fact I had a lady call yesterday that saw us out at the fairgrounds and said, ‘I have a bunch of things, if I bring them out to you will you do them?’ And I said, ‘Sure!’”
Although Ron and Brenda only travel to craft shows during the holiday season, they do sell their items year-round.
For more information about Country Home Collection’s unique and unusual lights, visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/CountryHomeCollection or call 573-295-6160.