After 50 years, American Import Lighting comes to its generous end | Jax Daily Record | Jacksonville Daily Record

A nearly 50-year-old Jacksonville business closed its doors in April, but its legacy will live on for years.

After the death of 89-year-old Ray Nasrallah Sr. on August 14, 2021, his wife and business partner, Annie, and their children Karen Nasrallah, Joey Nasrallah and Mary Nasrallah Thornton were faced with the question of whether you had to try to keep the doors open at American Import Lighting, the Ray Sr. lighting company started in a storefront in San Marco.

All of the siblings, including their brother, Ray II, who died at 57 in 2018, grew up working in the store after school, but they knew keeping American Import open without their dad wasn’t an option. realistic.

“We decided we couldn’t do it. We all have full-time jobs,” said Karen Nasrallah, redevelopment manager at the city’s Office of Economic Development.

Joey Nasrallah is a regional sales representative for a commercial lighting distributor. Mary Thornton operates a ballet studio and a dancewear store.

This decision led the children and their mother to determine what to do with the largest inventory of light fixtures of all sizes, fans, lamps and accessories in Jacksonville in the 7,000 square foot showroom. and its 5,000 square foot warehouse at 11840 Boulevard de la plage.

The American Import Lighting showroom and warehouse at 11840 Beach Blvd.

Since the business was closed, they also had to empty the space before the next rental payment was due.

“It was overwhelming,” said Karen Nasrallah.

“We had a few bites to sell, but it didn’t sit well with us, especially selling the name. We wanted to do something that would connect with dad.

Their father’s early business career before American Import led them to HabiJax, Habitat for Humanity in Jacksonville.

“We wanted to help them in their mission,” said Karen Nasrallah.

The nonprofit that builds new homes for low-income people also operates ReStore, two outlets where people can buy building and electrical supplies, plumbing fixtures and appliances that are donated to HabiJax. to be sold cheaper than in a retail store.

Proceeds from sales at ReStore are used to build HabiJax homes.

The timing of the connection could not have been better.

“Lighting is a big category for us and we lost our lighting supplier a week before American Import Lighting let us know they wanted to donate their inventory,” said Rod Borom, vice president. from ReStore.

The American Import Lighting sign could be seen during the demolition of Southgate Plaza along Beach Boulevard. It was the store’s second home before moving about 7.5 miles east to 11840 Beach Blvd.

In addition to all American Import Lighting fixtures, lamps, bulbs and electrical supplies, the donation included the 20-foot high pallet racking in the warehouse.

“That was a huge gift in itself,” Borom said.

It took over a month to move all of the merchandise from American Import Lighting to the ReStore outlets on Beach Boulevard and 103rd Street.

Fixtures and supplies are priced 50% to 70% below retail price. It could take years to sell all the inventory, Borom said.

“It was meant to be,” Karen Nasrallah said.

“All of our lighting went there to build homes for those in need. As sad as it was, we felt good. That’s what dad would have wanted.

‘The American dream’

Ray Sr.’s father was one of five brothers who, fleeing religious persecution in Syria because they were Catholics, brought their families to Jacksonville in the early 1900s.

Ray Sr.’s family opened a grocery store along Main Street in Springfield. Her father, the youngest of four children, was born in the apartment above the grocery store, delivered by a midwife, Karen Nasrallah said.

When Ray Sr.’s father died, the family moved their store in Riverside to a building that is now “The 1910 General Store,” an Airbnb at 2784 Herschel St.

“Dad grew up in the apartment above the store with one of his uncles, my grandmother and three of his sisters. His bedroom was the back porch,” Karen Nasrallah said.

After graduating from St. Paul’s Catholic High School, Ray Sr. graduated from the University of Florida in 1954 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a minor in building construction.

He joined the United States Navy and served in the United States Atlantic Fleet Naval Construction Battalion from 1955 to 1957.

Back in Jacksonville, he started building with his brother-in-law, John Hanna.

In 1963 Ray Sr., Annie and another partner, Henry Price, formed Price-Nasrallah Builders. The company has built single family homes, apartments and commercial structures.

Annie Nasrallah and her husband and business partner, Ray Nasrallah Sr. In this 1980s photo, Ray Nasrallah Sr. died August 14, 2021 at age 89.

A past president of the Northeast Florida Builders Association and the Florida Home Builders Association, he was named “Florida Builder of the Year” in 1980.

In 1994 he was inducted into the Florida Housing Hall of Fame.

Ten years after its creation, Price-Nasrallah bought American Import Lighting, one of its subcontractors.

Beginning with a storefront in San Marco in 1973, as the business grew, it moved to a 5,000 square foot space in Southgate Plaza, then expanded into the showroom and warehouse of Beach Blvd.

The location was chosen because it is central to the Jacksonville market and midway between St. Johns County and Amelia Island, where high-end American Import customers were building new houses.

The siblings all worked at the store growing up, with their late brother becoming store manager when American Import moved to Southgate Plaza and vice president and COO of Beach Boulevard.

“It went from storage shelves,” Joey Nasrallah said.

“I had the marvelous job during the inventory of counting thousands and thousands of bulbs,” Karen Nasrallah said.

Their father was also their source of wisdom and business advice.

After dancing with municipal ballets in Tampa, Colorado and Atlanta, Mary Thornton returned to Jacksonville 30 years ago and opened the Mary Pauline Dance Conservatory.

Seven years later, the 94-year-old owner of Bobbi-Lin Children’s Shop and Dancewear and Theatrical Shop wanted to retire and asked if she was interested in buying the business.

“I asked dad about it and he said, ‘Well honey, you can’t dance forever,'” Thornton said. It’s now Julian’s Dancewear.

Along with sage advice, the siblings said their dad also taught them that a work ethic is the key to success in everything they do.

“Dad worked six or seven days a week. He started the business with residential clients and grew it by working with developers building housing estates,” said Karen Nasrallah.

“Our father was a self-made man. He grew up in a grocery store and then lived the American dream.

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