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Clear Light, a landmark company in Placitas, closes

c. Rudi Klimpert This caricature of Joshua Peine, drawn by Rudi Klimpert,
cartoonist for the
Signpost, was used as a Clear Light business icon.

Clear Light ending forty-plus year run in Placitas

Signpost Staff

Clear Light the Cedar Company, a fixture in Placitas commerce and lore for decades, will be closing its doors in early March more than nine years after the death of its free-spirited founder.

Penny Peine, who kept her brother’s business running from her home in the Midwest, told the Signpost that Clear Light encountered an issue she couldn’t overcome: the retirement of two California chemists who formulated cedar harvested in New Mexico for cosmetic uses. Both had worked with Clear Light since her brother Josh Peine founded the business well over forty years ago, she said.

“They were so wonderful,” Peine told the Signpost. “They allowed us to order in the kinds of quantities we want to use.”

Two years of searching only found chemists who dealt in quantities too large to be used before their shelf life expired, she added.

Josh Peine settled in Placitas in the early 1970s after a dozen years as a Hollywood actor that included starring in a short-lived TV series and an uncredited role in the movie “Rosemary’s Baby.” Friends remember him as a Harley-riding free spirit who could be both gentle and difficult.

Ramblings around the Southwest introduced him to Native Americans who used mountain cedar for healing, cleansing, and ceremonies. The cedar needles came from one of the many species of juniper that have cedar in their names although they are not considered true cedars. Before long, Josh was making cedar sachets for friends and developing his own method for sustainably harvesting and processing juniper needles. That turned into the business with several employees, additional products, and a broad base of wholesale and retail customers. The wholesale customers already have been alerted to Clear Light’s closing.

“I’ll tell you the reaction,” Penny Peine said. “It’s heartbreaking. They’re so upset.”

He opened the current property that included his home, a store, and office, and a production barn in 1985. He died in 2006 at age 69.

“He started out of a little house and a couple of trailers,” his sister said. “Josh would never have wanted to retire.”

Penny Peine put the property up for sale nearly a year and a half ago hoping to sell the business and the buildings together. One prospect wanted her to train him for two years while others wanting to open new businesses bumped against water limitations. The property is currently under contract to buyers intending to use it for residential purposes, she said.

For now Clear Light remains open Mondays through Fridays through March 4 on State Route 165 at Camino de Las Huertas. An estate sale is tentatively planned for March 26-28, shortly before the property is expected to change hands

 
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