Charlotte was born in Atlanta and raised in Gainesville, Georgia where she graduated from Lakeview Academy. She moved to Athens to attend UGA, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Child and Family Development. Her first job was at The Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta where she taught all ages about the history and art of puppetry. With a desire to be back in Athens, and a new-found love of teaching, Charlotte began working towards her master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from the Piedmont College campus on Prince Avenue. After earning her second degree, it was time to go back to work! Charlotte started as a teacher at Timothy Road Elementary for several years before leaving to open her own business – Brainability! Brainability!, a concept she created and brought to life with her sister, allowed her to do the fun parts of teaching, minus the testing! Using creative means like play, art, music, and movement via camps, birthday parties and one-on-one tutoring Charlotte quickly gained a loyal audience of Athens-area parents and children. Following the success of Brainability! Charlotte began working in the Alliance Theatre’s educational department. She designed and conducted Artist-in-Residence programs where she presented lessons to school children which incorporated the arts, reading and drama skills. In 2010, while continuing to work with the Alliance Theater, Charlotte opened House Electric, an Electrical Supply and Lighting Showroom that she runs with her husband, Geoff. The business opened in the location of Farm Electric, which was an Athens icon for more than half a century. With her “outside the box” approach, House Electric soon had a vibe all of its own! After the birth of their son, Charlotte narrowed her focus to her family and House Electric. Along with serving the lighting and electrical supply needs of Athens area homes and businesses, Charlotte loves to be involved in supporting the community that supports her business. The store is a popular collection site for Books For Keeps and the Athens Area Diaper Bank. She also volunteers at Athens Montessori School, serving as co-chair of the Athens Montessori Parents organization. Additionally, she is on the board of Little Athens Children’s Museum. Charlotte lives on the Eastside of Athens with husband, Geoff, son, Blake and his beta fish, named Arie (after his grandfather’s cat, who is named after Arie Medders, the patriarch of a famous family of North Georgia potters).
What do you love most about your job?
I love that I am able to build the business with my family! Even though there are some times, some interesting times, working with my husband, it is also really amazing to be able to work side by side with him. We have definitely learned from and grown with each other over our House Electric years. I also love that my son has grown up in the business. I have rocked him while I was interviewing prospective employees, had him playing along beside me as I created marketing ads and more. As he has grown, he has put in his two cents for a lot of the buying of the decorative and gift items, which is quite fun! He overhears everything that Geoff and I discuss and he chimes in now and then about how he thinks certain aspects of the business should be run- some of which have been fabulous suggestions that I have used. So, House Electric is definitely a small family business.
When you are not working, what are some of your favorite things to do in Athens?
With the pandemic, we have definitely missed doing a lot of Athens things. We love going to different festivals and markets like AthFest and IndieSouth. Live theatre, we miss that! Town & Gown, Athens Community Theater (ACT) at The Morton, The Classic Center’s performances and Rose of Athens are really important to us and produce fabulous shows. The Christmas parade is an event that we absolutely love, either to see it or build a float and be in it. The Wild Rumpus is full of entertainment….so many favorite things – events, shows, markets and festivals!
If you could see any show, musician or band anywhere, what or who would it be and where?
I’d really like to go backstage and see behind the scenes of how Sesame Street and The Muppet Shows are filmed and produced. As for a band… while I’m hanging with the Muppeteers, who better to see than Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem Band with Animal on drums, Dr. Teeth on the piano, Floyd Pepper on guitar and Zoot on the sax. Oh, and Janice for vocals! Wouldn’t it be cool to catch a ride with them on their psychedelic painted bus on the way to a gig?
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Definitely: Always go for your biggest dreams. No matter what it is, try!
Do you have a favorite book or a book you find yourself referencing, rereading or gifting most often?
Books are kind of funny for me. When my husband and I first started dating, he said, you don’t own any books. I replied, what are you talking about? I have thousands of books. He said, no you don’t. I said, I do! Look over there! He said, wait a minute, those are all children’s books. He is right, I love children’s books, it’s the teacher in me. One of my all time favorites, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, is wonderful and one that I loved teaching with the Alliance Theatre. I would go into classrooms and we would act out sailing through the different months and days and showing our teeth and stomping and roaring. About twenty or so years ago, the Athens Clarke County Library had a Maurice Sendak Day. I took my nephew, who was around two years old at the time. We both dressed up as the character Max (in his wolf costume). That was certainly a memory I will never forget! I don’t think that Mr. Evan had ever had adults show up in costumes for his storytimes – even though costumes were encouraged. Eric Carle is another one of my favorites. He is such an amazing author and illustrator. His books have sweet stories with good lessons. Plus, I especially love his beautiful hand painted tissue paper art creations.
Do you have a favorite movie or remember the first movie you saw in a movie theatre?
If you hadn’t figured it out by now, I am a huge Jim Henson and Walt Disney fan! I grew up with The Muppet Movies and Disney animation and have fond memories of watching them with my family. But, one film that really stands out to me is Grease! My sisters and I saw it (a lot) when I was little. I remember saying that we saw it thirteen and a half times because there was one time we stayed in the theatre and it started showing again. We were like, wait a minute we have to get out of here! So, I guess we really saw the movie 13 times and the opening credits 14 times. My sisters, friends, and I loved the characters so much that we would role-play scenes from the movie. We had the soundtrack, well, I guess it was a record at that time, and we would dance around singing “Sandra Dee”, “Greased Lighting”, “Beauty School Drop Out”, etc. One time, when we were on a family vacation at Big Canoe in the North Georgia Mountains, we were pretending to be Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) at the end of the movie in the carnival scene when she had on her heels and her tight black outfit. I’ll never forget the look on my mom’s face when she came in the room and saw orange spots all over the rug. It was because we were pretending to smoke with Cheetos. We would take the Cheetos and throw them down on the floor and stomp them out like Sandy did with her cigarettes. We did the whole, “tell me about it, stud!”, threw the Cheetos down and then ground them into the carpet. I don’t think our mother was very pleased with us, but when we explained what we were doing she thought it was funny so she didn’t get too mad at us. Another one of our favorite scenes was Greased Lighting. Danny Zooko (John Travolta) and the T-Birds are fixing up the car. At some point, Danny runs around waving Saran Wrap. So everytime I see plastic wrap and Chester Cheeto it reminds me of my Grease days. Definitely fun memories!
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
I enjoy visiting New York City. I’ve been with my dad several times, and it is always just such a fun, happening place. I love seeing shows on Broadway, taking in all of the hustle and bustle, trying new restaurants and if I am visiting in November, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a must for me. When the pandemic has ended, I’d love to go back and get behind the scenes of the parade…I want to see the Macy’s volunteers lining up, the floats pulling into their line up spots and the balloons all laid out, getting inflated and ready to fly!
What is something interesting about you that most people might not know?
On a personal level, I am an extreme introvert. Most people don’t realize that. They think I am an extrovert. But, I get my energy from having time by myself and doing artistic things like painting, working on fiber arts or creating glass mosaics. Once I have had some space to myself, then I can come back out of my shell.
If you could put any message on a billboard, what would you put?
“Gotta Giggle!” I think that everyone could use a reminder to let go and laugh.
If you could have lunch with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and where?
Well, of course I would love to have a long lunch with my heavenly family to catch up with them. But, someone other than family…Fred Rogers. We could make some yummy sandwiches in his kitchen and eat at the table in front of his fish tank. After chatting over lunch, I would love to feed his fish, meet his neighbors and follow the neighborhood trolley to visit the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. I’d also like to check out his closet of sweaters that his mama made for him. Hopefully he would allow me to stay a little longer so I could see what Picture Picture had to share for the day.
What three words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word “home”?
There is no place like it. I always think of the ruby red slippers that Dorothy wears in The Wizard of Oz. I once visited a friend at work and he had lots of unique things in his office, but a little pair of ruby red slippers really caught my attention. When I asked about the slippers, he said, “Well, there is no place like home. And when I’m at work as much as I am, there are times I have to stop and think, it’s time to go home, because there is no place like it.” That just really stuck with me. But three words? I’d say: family, peace, love, and comfort. That’s actually four words isn’t it…. I don’t know which to remove. Can I keep the four words?