This began as a project profile about a solar installation on a furniture store. However, after interviewing the Grimaud family, the family was so much fun and their backstory was so interesting that we decided to include it.
Joe Grimaud, a retired Air Force fighter pilot, opened his first business in 1976 – a Midas Muffler Shop. Many years and many auto service businesses later, Joe’s oldest son left his position with Rockwell and took over operations for his father. Since his son had been doing such an admirable job of running the muffler business, Joe felt no desire to interrupt a good thing and let him continue in that management role. He then bought a 6 acre tract of land in Chapin, SC that held a closed grocery store. Joe thought that the land was a great real estate investment, but he needed to generate money with the facility so that he could pay the mortgage. Joe and his wife Gladys converted the facility to a high end furniture store in 1999. After only 14 months, they faced much pressure from the inundation of the market with moderately priced furniture made overseas. It was obvious that something needed to change, and Joe was introduced to a furniture liquidator for help with existing inventory.
The liquidation sale was so successful, that they decided to bring in some moderately priced furniture to continue their market trial. Based on that success, Grimaud decided to form a new corporation under a new name for the sale of moderately priced goods.
In early 2015, Grimaud was approached by a developer interested in buying the 6 acre tract for use as a shopping center, with Publix being the anchor tenant. The decision to sell this property and search for a new location was made. By this time, Grimaud’s youngest son Keith and his wife Jennifer had come to work in the store. They found a prime location right next to the interstate to relocate their furniture business. Joe and Gladys realized when Keith came to work for them; he had a natural ability and talent for the business. Keith and Jennifer soon became the owners of Chapin Furniture. Gladys Grimaud stated that Keith and Jennifer “have design in their DNA”. They have learned a lot, but from the beginning, the desire was there. Jennifer mentioned that as a child, she didn’t really play with Barbies – her passion was designing and redesigning the Barbie houses, over and over again. She joined Chapin Furniture as a buyer four years ago and is responsible for all of the layout, design and buying for the business.
When working on the design for the new Chapin Furniture location, Keith began looking into the possibility of using solar power to lessen the utility bills. It was an idea that intrigued him, but several local builders told Keith that it didn’t make sense to use solar – perhaps because they were unfamiliar with it. When Keith persisted and did more research, he learned about the incentives from SCE&G as well as federal and state incentives. He contacted several different solar providers and found Jim Woods, Director of Clean Energy for Shealy Electrical Wholesalers. Anyone that has EVER met Jim knows how passionate he is about solar. Keith said that “it seemed like a good fit – we could recoup our investment pretty quickly and we were already investing in energy efficient lighting and an energy efficient HVAC system”. All of the interior lighting is LED with timers and motion detectors.
Because of the size of the building, they knew that the energy costs were going to be substantial. And as Jennifer said, they wanted to be able to tell the “green story” too. They wanted the new facility they built to leave as small of a carbon footprint as possible. Some of their suppliers feel just as strong about this concept. . Bassett is making a new line of tables and for every one that they sell, they plant three new trees. The elder Mr. and Mrs. Grimaud had a lot of confidence in Keith and Jennifer’s decision on the solar project, even though they originally joked that they had gone to “the dark side”. The installation of the solar array was completed by Jamie Brown with Brown Electric.
There are usually obstacles with any large project, and this was no exception. The new building was already under construction when Keith met with Jim Woods. The construction superintendent wasn’t familiar with solar installations and wanted to ensure that the roof would handle the additional load per square foot from the solar panels. To overcome the builder’s uncertainty of structural integrity, Keith Grimaud hired an independent structural engineer to review the plans. By the time it was all said and done, the engineer was able to confirm the design layout of the solar panels on a rail mounting system attached directly to the standing seams of the metal roof. The rails were positioned over the structural portions of the building to accept the load.
For this 117.81 kWDC solar project, we used 462 Boviet 255w solar modules mounted on the warehouse roof with Unirac SM Series racking and 3 Solectria PVI-36TL inverters. The store’s power usage and solar offset is unknown, as this is a new construction project and there is no history to design around. However, it is estimated that the system could produce up to 70% of Chapin Furniture’s electric needs. The payback estimate is just over 4 years. They will utilize SCE&Gs incentive of $0.18/kWh for everything produced for 10 years, along with the 30% federal tax credit, $35,000 South Carolina tax credit and available MACRS accelerated depreciation.
The grand opening was Memorial Day weekend and the store received rave reviews for both the interior and exterior. This was Chapin Furniture’s first project with Shealy Electrical Wholesalers and Keith said that “Shealy has been very easy to work with. Jim is a likable guy and really easy to deal with.” When asked about his advice to others considering “going green” with solar, he said “Don’t stop just because there might be a few obstacles. Keep investigating. Educate people.” Chapin furniture is located at 660 Columbia Avenue in Chapin, South Carolina.
Just look for the Big Red Chair.
For more information, contact Jim Woods at firstname.lastname@example.org