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For eight months in 2000, Lee Grant lived the life of a young Hollywood luminary: Cast as a baseball player in the romantic comedy, “Summer Catch,” starring then-famous heartthrob Freddie Prinze Jr., sidekick Matthew Lillard, and teen beauty Jessica Biel, Grant spent long summer days on set doing what any major league hopeful does best — playing ball — not to mention rubbing elbows with the stars.
Though he’s not a professional ball player or a celebrity, Grant is now a star in his own right. At just 36 years old, Grant is the owner of jan/san supply company, Coastal Chemical & Paper Inc. Based in the beautiful beachside city of Wilmington, N.C. Grant built his company from the ground up, and is now riding the waves of its success.
In the jan/san industry, Grant is nothing short of an anomaly. Years younger than his peers, he has had to work double-time to earn the respect of clients and competitors, alike — especially as a first-generation business owner in an industry that has, historically, struggled to attract and retain young talent.
“Trust is a big thing,” Grant says. “It’s all about solving problems. If you can do that at a fair price, and make someone’s life easier, you have a good chance.”
While Grant holds fast to the wisdom of the janitorial trade, his success is due in part to his “new school” approach. The company’s rapid adoption of technology, its hiring of “fresh,” young talent, and its team mentality stand among its principal distinctions.
That last element shouldn’t come as a surprise: Grant didn’t just play an athlete in a summer flick; he was a Division I baseball player — a pitcher for the University of North Carolina–Wilmington Seahawks, to be exact.
“Lee was always determined — he always wanted what was best for the team,” says Grant’s college baseball coach, Mark Scalf. “He’s an extremely hard worker and tremendously competitive. He’s always willing to put in for the win.”