In 1995, Paul DePersis walked into Five Feet Restaurant, and a lightbulb went off for his future wife. Casey was waitressing at the now-gone Laguna Beach eatery when Paul walked through the door, “wearing a full-length cashmere coat and silk scarf,” she recalls. “When he came in the door, I thought, ‘Oh, my God, that guy is hot.'” Paul was there with his business partner to celebrate the partner’s wedding anniversary. The group was an odd number, and it took Casey a little while to realize the hot guy was on his own.
There were definite sparks. The two agreed to meet after her shift, and she found him at a nearby coffeehouse, keeping her coffee warm with plastic wrap. Two years later, they married and soon embarked on a new venture: Orion Chandelier, a decorative lighting company based in Santa Ana that counts as clients the Long Beach Convention Center Theater, the Hyatt Regency Irvine and the RANCH Steakhouse in Anaheim, among other national and global locations. Paul focuses on the design and manufacturing, while Casey works the sales and marketing side.
“It’s like Willy Wonka over here, except not magic,” Casey says, then pauses to consider that last part. “It’s lighting and magic and kinda cool. . . . A client once said, ‘You can’t hang an idea.’ The magic is making it a tangible item.”
That magic takes a lot of work behind the scenes. To build such bright creations as the resin rocks suspended and draped with chains that were made for Thomas Schoos of Schoos Design in Los Angeles, Paul sometimes has to manufacture equipment. “I like to figure out how things are made,” he says. “When a designer gives me a sketch of what they want, I need to figure out how to make that thing real.” In that specific case, it took several tries before both parties were satisfied.
“There have definitely been jobs where we, especially Paul, have stretched ourselves to take in the design parameters,” Casey explains. “Every time we make something, it’s like reinventing the wheel.”
“I love going to job sites and seeing how things are built,” Paul adds. “I love being in the shop and building things.” Their business takes them to many places, but never too far from their three daughters: Renata (16), Malena (15) and Tallulah (8). “I’ve wanted to homeschool since I was 18,” Casey recounts. “It was a part of our conversation when we were dating. . . .
“It gives us more freedom, homeschooling and running a business,” she continues. On a recent weekday, Tallulah had a day off from the charter program, so mom and daughter spent some time at the Santa Ana Zoo. The youngest DePersis rode the carousel while mom occasionally fielded calls and gathered inspiration. The kids have also accompanied their parents on business trips, where they can continue their education in a different setting. “They get tasks,” Casey explains. “Like, ‘Find a way to go to this museum.’ Then they report back on the museum.” Such trips allow “a lot more creativity [to] be added to our life.”
Balancing everything takes a lot of energy, something the DePersis family appears to have in abundance. “This is the funnest place we’ve been at,” Casey says. “After 18 years, we’ve learned from lessons. . . . We truly have an understanding of who we are.”
Patrice Marsters started at OC Weekly as an intern, just before the first issue was published. She is now the associate editor of the paper, serves on the board of the Orange County Press Club, and mentors aspiring writers and editors at Newport Harbor High School. In her spare time, Ms. Marsters co-leads a multi-level Girl Scout troop, creates baked goods, and rants at inanimate objects (including her computer) about her grammatical and writing pet peeves.