A combination of the drudgery of retail sales and the promise of network marketing is what led Justin McLaughlin, owner of the Lory Theater and the winner of this year’s Highland Chamber of Commerce Business Person of the Year, into the entrepreneurial life.
“(He) has always been full of energy and quick to laugh,” said Highland Schools Superintendent Mike Sutton, also the outgoing president of the Highland Chamber of Commerce, who presented McLaughlin with his award at the chamber’s annual meeting June 23.
McLaughlin was overcome with emotions when he heard he was selected for the award.
“I believe my wife, who is president of the company, and entire team are more deserving of the award. I just accepted the award on their behalf,” he said.
A natural entertainer and salesman, McLaughlin studied music and business at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville before taking over taking over his father’s satellite sales and installation business in 2004.
The oldest of five children, McLaughlin grew up on top of a big hill in Alton with his parents, Michael and Mary Lou, and siblings.
“His parents instilled the importance of being a good example and with their encouragement he has always been active in local civic life. Countless holiday parades, peace rallies, Boy Scout and volunteer activities in the Alton community pepper his early life,” said Sutton said.
In 2006, McLaughlin’s wife, Hillary, joined him as the office manager for the satellite and home theater company. High school sweethearts who have been married since 1996, they have been working together ever since.
“They have proven to be excellent partners in so many adventures and challenges during their 18 ½-year marriage. Her more pragmatic and calm attitude often complements his more passionate and high-energy nature,” Sutton said.
The satellite company continued to grow in scope until McLaughlin was arguably one of the highest quality home theater installers in the St. Louis metro area.
Wanting to live and work in the same location, the McLaughlins started to look outside of Edwardsville for a home that would fit the bill and the budget, their adventure would bring them to Highland.
“Highland proved to be ideal and with the help of Highland Zoning Commissioner Kevin Limestall, they found the perfect ’20s bungalow to expand their business and their family,” Sutton said.
(They now have two children, Zoe and Myles.)
But, after many years in the home theater industry, they were on the lookout for a change.
“That next big business opportunity came along in the form of a very large, 100-year-old brick building on Main Street,” said Sutton.
The Lory Theater, Highland’s movie house, had recently closed and was in serious need of some TLC.
“Justin and Hillary had the vision and energy to see it through the renovations,” said Sutton.
They renovated the century-old building and updated the technology, with digital projectors for the theater’s two screens.
“Justin can now be found happily popping corn and singing songs for hundreds of Lory customers each week,” Sutton said.
And he loves every part of it.
“He wears his heart on his sleeve and can’t keep a secret or tell a lie to save his life,” said Sutton. “What you see is what you get. He is always ready to lend a hand or support a worthy cause. He is a natural entertainer and a born salesman, never afraid to be the center of attention.”
McLaughlin said this was also the first time he has ever won an award, which he has safely stored in a box.
“I don’t even have a trophy case. But I plan to give the award its due pomp and circumstance when the business traditionally starts to slow down in September,” he said.
About the Award
Highland Business Person of the Year Award is presented to a local businessperson who has shown outstanding performance and success in his or her industry and a “beyond the call of duty” dedication to Highland.
In addition to holding a leadership role in the workplace, the honoree has actively participated in service organizations, governing boards and other civic committees, promoting growth and development of all Highland business.