Nauset Lantern celebrates 60 years in a unique way
Passing the Torch…Again
Nauset Lantern Shop marks its 60th anniversary with a changing of hands
Editor’s note: In the 2005 “Top 400” issue of Cape Cod LIFE, we featured a story on Nauset Lantern Shop titled “Passing the Torch.” At the time, Michael Joly was in his fifth year as owner of the Orleans-based company, having taken over the business from Ken Alman. On March 1, 2019, Michael, along with his wife Barbara, officially passed the torch to the shop’s new owners, husband-and-wife team Chris and Kelly Berardi. We headed back to Nauset Lantern, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, to talk to Chris and Michael about the transition. Not only is the future of Nauset Lantern bright, but it’s also one that will still include Michael.
Michael Joly has a smile for the ages. He doesn’t just smile with his mouth, as Chris Berardi points out, but with his entire face. Berardi has quite the jolly smile as well—it’s an earnest smile, and a gleam in his eyes, that appears every time he talks about the Nauset Lantern Shop.
The enthusiasm and pride Joly and Berardi share for Nauset Lantern is undeniable, and so too is their desire to keep this now 60-year-old business alive and thriving. After 19 years of being at the helm of Nauset Lantern Shop, Joly, 64, says he was ready to relinquish his ownership responsibilities. He and his wife Barbara put the business up for sale late last year, not expecting they would find the right buyer so quickly. “What was important for Barbara and I was the continuation of the business. That’s why we ultimately chose Chris,” Joly explains, “because of his craftsmanship and what he could bring to the table—he can work with his hands, and he wants it to be his career.”
Berardi, a native of Canton, MA, moved to the Cape 17 years ago when he was 25 and began his career here as a carpenter, his sights set on one day owning his own business. He would have never imagined, though, that his business would wind up being a lantern-making shop—that is until this past December, when a friend of his, also Joly’s, informed him that Nauset Lantern was for sale and encouraged him to look into it. “I was really intrigued right from the start,” Berardi recalls. “After I met Michael and he showed me around, I went home and I told my wife, ‘I’m thinking about looking into a lantern business,’ almost expecting her to say ‘No, that’s crazy!’ and I’d forget all about it. But she said ‘Alright,’ so I said, ‘Let’s go visit. I want you to see this.’ Two weeks later—it was the day after Christmas—we came in and she got the tour, and we were sold right then.”
So what intrigued Berardi, and ultimately sold him, on owning a lantern shop? “From the start I knew I could enjoy this,” he says. “It’s the product, and it’s the craft.” The way Joly sees it, “We could’ve never sold the business to the person that would just sit in the office; it wouldn’t work. You got to love working with your hands in this business,” and Berardi loves doing just that: “To me there’s nothing better than it. That’s why this was such a good fit.” Berardi is currently a coppersmith in training, learning all of the tricks of the trade from Joly, a true perfectionist when it comes to the craft of lantern making. Metalworking is a trade that was new to Joly too when he first started at Nauset Lantern, having previously worked as a manager for Macy’s and Filene’s Basement. The parallels between Berardi and Joly don’t end there. Michael was 45 when he took the helm at Nauset Lantern; Chris is 42. And Michael once worked as a carpenter in college.
Berardi is excited to be learning everything he can from Joly, and that won’t end anytime soon. One of the main reasons behind Joly’s decision to sell the business was so he could focus solely on his passion for coppersmithing. Joly will continue on with the company as a coppersmith, along with a team of three others—Tom Bache, Bob Berg and Michael Zaczek— who each have decades of experience in metal fabrication. “I said to Chris today, ‘Tom Bache has been working here since he was 62 and he’s 87 now—wouldn’t that be nice if I’m 80 to still come in here for 10 hours a week and make some lanterns,’” Joly says. “I tease him all the time,” Chris adds, “I say he’s just got to put pants on. He wears shorts year-round, I’ve never seen him wear pants,” he says as they both laugh.
Jokes aside, both Joly and Berardi are serious about the craftsmanship and attention to detail that goes into each one of their signature, Colonial-style lanterns. Everything is made manually in the basement workshop of their showroom on Route 6A in Orleans. They have over 100 lantern design templates, many of which were created by Nauset Lantern Shop founder Ari “Opie” Oppelaar. Large, flat sheets of copper are transformed by ridgers and rollers—and a bar folder that dates back to the 19th century—into elegant lanterns that harken back to Early America.
Styles range from their popular Onion, with its globe-like shape, to the Cape Cod Traditional, which features an open bottom with the light bulb hanging down. The lanterns are designed to be electric, yet they are made with old-style latches, vent holes and reflective plates—just as they were originally made long ago. As a personal final touch, each lantern has a nameplate engraved with the Julian calendar date of when it was crafted.
Berardi says he intends on maintaining the tradition of Nauset Lantern, preserving the history of the lantern styles that are uniquely their own, while growing the business by putting his fresh spin on their product offerings. “My mind’s racing with ideas,” he says, one of those being to expand their interior lighting options, including their line of painted lanterns. “We want to take this to the next level,” says Berardi, noting that these lanterns can be painted in any color desired. He’d also like to offer more custom work, as they have the ability to make anything out of copper, or brass, and hopefully incorporate his woodworking skills along the way.
“My wife and I are excited to see what it becomes, because we definitely want to continue the business and grow it all at once,” Berardi says. “And I still want to work here,” Joly adds. “As long as he wears pants,” Berardi quips as they burst into laughter.