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Business profile: Fantasy Lighting/The Hunters’ Den

OKEECHOBEE — After working for the Tribe for many years, Christie Strickland knew she wanted to try something new. She and her husband, Earl, noticed Okeechobee didn’t have any lighting stores and decided to fill that niche. Earl worked as an electrician for 29 years, so the business made sense to them both. Christie retired, and they opened Fantasy Lighting in 2003.

The Stricklands also enjoy the outdoors, especially hunting and fishing. When a local outdoor outfitting business was about to close in 2006, they saw another opportunity and took it. The Stricklands bought out the entire inventory and opened The Hunters’ Den, which sells almost everything necessary for an outdoor adventure – except firearms.

The two stores are located unexpectedly, yet conveniently, under one roof in downtown Okeechobee.

“We combined the two because we are the only employees,” Earl said.

Because many people in the area like to hunt and fish, the outdoor business brings in the most traffic. But people still need lighting for their homes.

“If wives come shopping with their husbands and they don’t like to hunt, they can always look for lights,” Christie said.

The front of the store contains the lighting and chandeliers all on one wall. And because of limited space, lamps dangle from the ceiling, hang on the wall and stand on the floor. Inventory includes lamps, chandeliers, pendant lights, under-counter lighting and bathroom, outdoor and indoor fixtures, as well as ceiling fans.

As a Tribal vendor, Fantasy Lighting may submit bids when Tribal members build their homes. Other Tribal vendors also come to them for business, many who know Earl from his electrician days.

“We deliver and warranty the merchandise for one year,” Earl said. “Our goal is to have 10 customers walk in and fulfill 10 houses with the inventory we own.”

The Stricklands came up with the name Fantasy Lighting on a long drive home from Tennessee.

They figured people who are building a home want to have their fantasy house. The name for The Hunters’ Den was more straightforward. The store carries everything from clothing to gear to outdoor-themed giftware. They even have their own line of shirts with eight unique designs. But perhaps the most popular items are the camouflage clothes, which come in all styles, colors and sizes.

“We have camo apparel for everyone from babies to grandparents,” Christie said. “And we sell a lot of camo lingerie.”

The baby clothes sell the most, but all baby items, including crib sets, bibs and infant’s and children’s clothing sell well, too. The store also produces custom corn hole boards and beanbags. The Hunters’ Den’s Facebook page displays some of their products.

Christie and Earl enjoy running their business. Being their own bosses gives them the flexibility to attend to their 12-year-old daughter Hunter’s needs and to partake in important events in her life.

“I’m here every day, but I have my own ‘banker’s hours,’” Christie said. “Earl opens and closes and lets me do what I need to do to be a wife and mother.”

Some of the challenges they face, however, are the long hours and the slow summer season. In the Florida heat, it isn’t easy to stay outdoors for extended periods so business is slow.

“If we can survive the summer, I know we will make it the rest of the year,” Christie said. “Hunting season starts in the fall, so people will start coming in before the season starts to get their supplies.”

The Hunters’ Den and Fantasy Lighting are located at 513 S.W. Park St. in Okeechobee. Their phone number is 863-467-5483.

 

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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.

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