Couple’s brilliant idea: Light up your life

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Dawn Stantus expresses wonderment at the dazzling array of lighting in the showroom that's her home away from home. Store (right) features an array of styles, choices. (Photo by Billy Hardiman/Wrangler News)
Dawn Stantus expresses wonderment at the dazzling array of lighting in the showroom that’s her home away from home. Store (right) features an array of styles, choices. (Photo by Billy Hardiman/Wrangler News)

Considering that “Let there be light” is You-Know-Who’s very first line in the Bible, you’d think that more people would aspire to the lighting business.

Torren Stantus and his appropriately-named wife Dawn came to it circuitously, and through Premier Lighting they have been working to elegantly lighten up the Valley for more than a decade now.

“There’s something about Tempe I’ve always loved,” says Dawn, a Payson native who’s now a Kyrene Corridor resident. “I had an aunt who lives in Buena Vista (Ranchos), and I always had it stuck in my head that I wanted to raise a family in South Tempe. I love it!”

Dawn moved to Tempe at the age of 18, and met Torren, a Washington native and ASU Construction Management student, while she was working at University Mechanical and Engineering Contractors.

Torren’s college friend Collin Herdt, meanwhile, had grown up in Tucson, where his parents ran Northside Lighting.

“About a year after college,” recalls Dawn, “the guys got together.” Their project was a Valley-based version of Herdt’s family business, supplying wholesale lighting for construction.

Shortly thereafter, the business was expanded to a retail outlet, and in the years that followed, more have been added. There are now Premier Lighting locations in Scottsdale, Glendale and Colorado Springs, along with Tucson’s Northside Lighting; Premier bought the store when Herdt’s parents retired.

“When our business was 3 years old,” says Dawn, “we went to China and started importing our own Premier Lighting line.”

But Premier carries a rich variety of products of all sorts. Wander into the Scottsdale location, for instance, off North Scottsdale Road near Kierland Commons, and you’ll immediately be struck by the feeling that, to paraphrase Dorothy, you aren’t in Home Depot any more.

The front of the store, with its grand and ornate chandeliers and lamps, offers décor suggestive of a fairy tale—Cinderella and Prince Charming could waltz through these rooms.

Brands in this part of the store include Swarovski and Schonbek. Toward the rear, the styles grow sleeker and more modern, though no less elegant. Brands back here include WAC Lighting, Modern Forms and Vermont-based Hubbardton Forge.

The store also carries high-end furniture, paintings, mirrors and other room-brightening articles, as well as decorative ceiling fans.

“I have a couple of fans that are six feet wide,” says Dawn. “In Arizona, that’s like a wind turbine. They push some serious air.”

Premier even caters to the light-bulb nostalgia market—who knew that light-bulb nostalgia existed?

The sentiment has been brought on, says Dawn, by the rise of LED lighting. It’s left people longing for “those big glass bulbs with the visible filaments.”

Thus Premier carries the “Nostalgia Era” line from Luminance. Big, retro designer bulbs with filaments that glow yellow, they look like something out of Jules Verne’s dreams.

In general, however, Stantus grants that LEDs have opened all sorts of new design possibilities. They allow, for instance, “for wooden fixtures, because with LEDs, the heat from the light doesn’t dry out the wood…With LEDs coming out, there’s going to be a big modification in our industry.”

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