by Troy Clair, President & CEO of Clair Global
In 1954, my grandfather, Roy Clair, Sr. gifted his sons a public address [speaker] system for Christmas. They used the system for sock hops, Easter egg hunts and other local events, and their hobby quickly turned into a passion, which eventually become a career.
I remember the distinct smell of our garage on Main Street in Lititz – the one where my dad, Gene Clair, and his brother, Roy Jr., started the business I would eventually run, the place Clair Bros. Audio was founded. The smell had a burning quality which came from a process known as re-coning, where the moving components in a speaker are replaced. I often found myself in awe, watching my dad and uncle working so hard in those early days. It was inspiring, really. Little did I know as a five-year-old that these memories would so greatly impact the rest of my life and lead to many opportunities for success in the future.
Clair Bros. Audio, which has become Clair Global, is a family business. In fact, we are already introducing the fourth generation of Clairs to the shop – sweeping floors, filing papers, and building cables, much like I did in the very early days. Growing up, I spent some time with my dad on the tours he was mixing. I started traveling with him during my summers as a kid. At eleven, I went out with The Osmonds and by fifteen I was on the road with The Rolling Stones. If I wasn’t throwing a football with a band’s drummer, hanging out backstage amongst the crew or just being a normal teenager (even if it was in a stadium or on a tour bus), I was helping my father fix a PA or sitting with him behind the mixing console, watching him do the work that he loved. I learned a lot in those early days. The steadfast and rapid pace of touring culture was thrilling. I was hooked from the beginning.
While over the years we have expanded exponentially, our home base has always been in Lancaster County. We quickly grew out of Mom and Dad’s garage and moved to an old barn in Lincoln. Every time we moved to a new and bigger shop, we thought we would never get big enough to fill it. But from Brickerville to Manheim and eventually to our current location at One Ellen Avenue in Lititz, we have continued to grow and outgrow each space.
We were often urged to relocate from our hometown to a major metropolitan area like New York or Los Angeles, but Dad and Uncle Roy saw the value of staying local. Lancaster County served as an incredibly strong foundation for Clair’s core business and operations while our road staff worked globally, truly mobilizing the Clair brand.
Roy and Gene knew that the unbelievable work ethic of Lancaster residents set the county apart. In fact, in the early days, before we hung systems with the help of motors and rigging, they enlisted the help of wrestlers from Franklin and Marshall College who had just the right mix of strength and grit to stack the massive speakers every night on tour. The county is booming with a local industrial infrastructure (mostly supporting the agricultural market), so it was easy to come by local vendors, machine shops and metal shops to source materials and parts. Also, the area is filled with master craftsman who understand the workmanship that goes into the manufacturing of our technically demanding products.
Additionally, Lancaster’s location was perfect because of its central proximity to three major East Coast hubs – making it ideal for moving gear. The richness of the area’s food, culture, and traditions, the stable cost-of-living and temperate climate also make it a place people want to live, so recruiting top-notch employees to the area is no problem.
While we’ve always remained deeply rooted in Lancaster, Clair Global has expanded nationally and internationally through new locations and acquisitions. This process always happened very naturally by meeting like-minded business owners whose companies’ values, work ethic and culture aligned with Clair’s. Today, we have thirteen locations worldwide spanning six states and eight countries. By following our instincts and strategically seeking out partners who shared our values, we were able to hit geographical mark after mark while keeping our headquarters in Lancaster County.
I’ve also been incredibly fortunate to watch the success of Clair Global transition into the success of Rock Lititz. With Clair firmly planted in South Central PA, Tait Towers began calling Lancaster home in 1978, and the county soon became a mecca for live entertainment companies. To give a bit of history, we owned a building we called Water Street Studios which was a small rehearsal spot on Water Street in Lititz, now occupied by Appalachian Brewing Company. We opened Water Street Studios back in the late 70s/early 80s which saw the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Rogers, Billy Joel, YES, and more. This concept for a local rehearsal space, born from the collective production experience of local businesses, was the seed for what would become Rock Lititz. Eventually Clair and TAIT came together to officially build this truly one-of-a-kind and collaborative Production Community. We were thankful to have the unwavering support of Warwick Township who championed the project in order to keep our businesses local through the Lancaster Farm Preservation Trust as well as flood plain restoration efforts. Rock Lititz is now home to over 30 leading vendors in live events, streaming, TV/Film and more – it has become a cornerstone to the Live Production industry.
The philanthropic spirit instilled in us by Gene and Roy continues today, and we believe it is important to give back to and partner with the community that has so graciously given to us. Because we have one of the country’s best chocolate manufacturers down the road, we send Wilbur Buds to thousands of clients and vendors every holiday season, because we love living in a place where family still comes first, we built a Little League baseball field at our headquarters, and because we are so proud of our town’s annual 4th of July celebration in Lititz Springs Park, we are always involved in the event.
Most recently, the Rock Lititz Community was able assist the Vaccinate Lancaster Coalition by managing on-site logistics for one of the highest-volume vaccination sites in the state. We don’t do these things because we feel obligated to, we do them because we are part of this community, and it is part of us. Lancaster County is our home, and we are proud to be here.
The Lancaster Chamber is proud to be celebrating its 150th Anniversary this year, alongside the business community. This year’s content has been centered around highlighting the leaders and businesses who are contributing to building a thriving Lancaster County community. This article was first printed in our 150th Commemorative Edition of Thriving Magazine, you can read more here: 150th Commemorative Edition of Thriving Magazine