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Why A Highway 301 Small Business Pays A $1,000 Monthly Electric Bill

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Linda Gowens’s electric bill is usually $300 or $400 a month.

This time of year, though, it generally triples.

On U.S. Highway 301 near Lawtey, Gowens runs a family business that lights up the road during the holidays. She’s been running Linda’s Yard Arts for almost two decades and started the business in the 1990s with her husband, Gene, who died in 2004.

The bills are worth most every penny this time of year.

“If you don’t light it up, (drivers) don’t know you’re here,” Gowens said. “It’s all part of the advertising. I used to do billboards, but then they tripled in price.”

Her yard is now her own billboard.

Today, she and about four or five nearby relatives, including grandchildren, run the shop. It’s a store specializing in anything and everything to do with yard lighting — from symbolic signs to decorative sculptures, including a pair of enormous roosters.

She and her husband were introduced to the business of lights from a friend back when they were selling produce from their front yard, and from then on the two were hooked. Gowens, 60, says it wasn’t easy when starting off, as the couple had to make costly mistakes and learn from experience.

But Linda’s Yard Arts took off after opening, becoming a roadside attraction, particularly when lit up.

The sign at night is even more distinctive. It’s missing the apostrophe: “Lindas Yard Arts.”

“You can’t bend the wiring that tight,” Gowens said with a laugh, slightly defensively. “And if you do, you crinkle up the really fine wires, so it causes the lights to go out.”

Joseph McCuen, 85, drove an hour from Ponte Vedra Beach one day last month to have the shop’s staff restring the lighting on his wire frame angel Gabriel, who he said suffered a lightning strike.

“For me, at my age, it’s major,” he said in reference to the drive. “I want her to do the work. Absolutely.”

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