Although James (J. T.) Clarke, owner of Charlotte, North Carolina-based Queen City Closets, a designer of
high-end closet systems, came from a
family of entrepreneurs, starting his own
business wasn’t top of mind when he
finished college. But as life would have
it, an accidental slip and broken kneecap
was the impetus for him falling right his
family’s entrepreneurial spirit.
“I started off doing tile work (while in
college). We did work in really high-end
homes,” Clarke says. “I was on my way
to class one morning in October, and
slipped and fell and broke my kneecap.
I had a cast on my leg for six weeks, so
that put me out of commission.
“Well, the guy that I was doing tile
work for — his brother and father
owned a company called The Blind
Shop and Closet Design, which did
window treatments, blinds and shutters,
but they also did custom closets.”
He worked for the company off and
on while studying at Appalachian State
University in Boone, North Carolina.
And that’s how he learned about the
closet industry, he says.
Yet, even with that experience Clarke
had zero intentions of starting his own
company after graduating with a business degree in marketing. He wanted
to get a job in the corporate world. But
after a small stint in the automotive
field, Clarke decided it wasn’t for him,
so he went back to work for the home
It was a later move to Charlotte that
pushed him further into the industry.
Hired as a designer by a closet franchise
firm, Clarke says his role was to bridge
the gap between design and manufacturing — the owner thought he was a
perfect fit because of his previous experience. Later, Clarke says he was tasked