Sherri Kayser thanks her late mother every day for an idea that now, 25 years later, has flourished into a full-fledged business.
Kayser is the owner and operator of Peace Light and Stone, a Mitchell business created after her mother, Diann Plamp, invented the Peace Light in 1992. The light is a solar-powered memorial placed at gravesites.
But since it's creation 25 years ago, it's grown into much more. Looking at a map on her office wall, Kayser points to the thousands of locations Peace Lights have been shipped, including Ireland and New Zealand.
"When my mom came up with the idea it was all blue sky, and to still be around 25 years later and helping families around the world, that's a good feeling," Kayser said.
2017 marks the company's 25th anniversary, but today is extra special for Kayser, as it is exactly six years since her mother's death. Diann Plamp died on Dec. 8, 2011, to natural causes.
While devastated by her mother's death, it wasn't the first loss in the family. Peace Light and Stone in Mitchell was founded after Kayser's sister, Kim, died in 1989. Kim was five months pregnant at the time, Kayser said, and morning sickness put too much stress on her, causing a ruptured aorta.
The sudden loss of her sister shook the entire family, Kayser said. On the night of Kim's funeral, the family's neighbors placed a lighted memorial candle on her grave. The light transformed the family, and they meant to keep it going.
So Plamp created the Peace Light as a maintenance-free, solar powered memorial light. In the shape of a cross, the first Peace Light was sold in May of 1992.
Since her mother's death in 2011, Kayser said she and her husband, Larry, have taken over the family business, continuing its success in Palace City. But Kayser never forgets her mother.
"Everyday I walk in here and I think of her, I thank her for what she's done for us and for other people," Kayser said. "She was always a forward-thinking woman and I'm very lucky to have her and my dad as parents."
More than just Peace Lights
Since its creation 25 years ago, the Peace Light has undergone many changes.
No longer is a cross the only shape of the Peace Light. Kayser said competitive business led the couple to try new initiatives. And last year, the Kaysers purchased a large format laser that can engrave, cut and etch.
The technology has allowed the Kaysers to place images into the Peace Lights as well as etch and engrave words and images into almost any other product sold in their business south of Mitchell at 2531 S. Highway 37.
"We're trying to let people know we're more than just peace lights and monuments," Kayser said, adding they can engrave plaques for memorials as well.
Their work goes beyond funeral services and cemeteries. Walking into Peace Light and Stone, holiday decor fills the entryway — a majority of it created with the laser, Kayser said.
Kayser said the holiday season was Plamp's favorite time of the year, so for the family to add items like these to their business means even more.
Empathizing with customers
When Melody Straw lost her daughter, she turned to Peace Lights for comfort.
Straw began working for Peace Light and Stone when it formed in 1992, working for an additional eight years. Shortly after she left the company, her daughter died.
"Diann and Sherri were the ones who helped me get through the first couple of days and everything. It's just kind of been a friendship ever since I started," Straw said. "I think what they do is just awesome — one of a kind, personalized and unique."
And Kayser can relate. Kayser said the loss of her sister, and later her mother, helped her in business, allowing her to empathize with customers who also lost loved ones. While everyone grieves differently, Kayser said she was still able to empathize with visitors.
"Sometimes it's nice to have somebody who's gone through and understands it to help you with the process," she said. "That's what I try to do. If they buy something from me or not, that's not the main thing. I can help them."