MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — From sockets and sewing to painting and metal work, it’s Lamp Mending 101.
Fixing broken lamps is a skill that’s become increasingly rare over the years, but two Twin Cities ladies aren’t just keeping the trade alive, they’re doing their best just to keep up with customer demands.
Almost as soon as the lights come on at their Bloomington business, customers are looking for the owners of the store to enlighten them with a quick fix.
“I used to order three-way sockets, maybe 50 a month. Now I’m ordering anywhere from 100 to 150 a month,” Marge Gritzke of The Lamp Mender said.
Gritzke and Jane Lordalen’s lamp mending business has always been busy, but lately things have really heated up. Competitors have either retired or closed up shop, and there weren’t many of them to begin with.
“We’re almost one of a kind. I don’t know of anyone who does the extent of repair and restoration that we do,” Lordalen said.
For her, it’s a career change of the 180-degree variety. She was a medical technician, but years ago she started lamp mending in her spare time. It wasn’t long before she and Gritzke realized they could do this on their own.
Thirty-five years ago they opened up their Bloomington location, and believe it or not, the old skill continues to bring in new business. Electricians come to them for assistance, along with remodelers and designers.
While skilled laborers will seek their help, they joke that dogs and cats are really the ones that keep them in business.
“Dogs and cats chew up cord sets. Even gerbils,” Lordalen said.
“A woman this year has set a new record. She has brought her lamp in 3 times in one week because her dog chewed the cord,” Gritzke said.
They’ll fix lamps that used to run on oil or kerosene and have been handed down from generation to generation.
“This is an oil lamp from the 1880s,” Lordalen said while taking a closer look at a customer’s lamp.
Fixtures, wall sconces, table and floor lamps. It’s all shades and sizes. Many of their customers have been coming here for decades.
“We had a dimmer burn out by our bedside and it burned out and they said no problem we can fix it,” customer Mike Zacher said. “They fixed it. Big box store, we don’t know what you need. We don’t know what to do.”
Therein lies the genius of this pair of businesswomen. When technology replaced catalogs, they stayed plugged in. Gritzke got comfortable with a computer and she even built their website.
“I found a domain company that could handle our website and then I built it from there,” Gritzke said.
And there are no plans to slow down. Not when customer demand means burning the midnight oil … or at least burning an LED light bulb.
“They want to fix them up. They want to use them again. Put a nice shade on them. It brings back good memories. We call it restoring your lighting heritage,” Gritzke said.
The ladies said between them and their apprentice, they can fix a lamp in a about a day or two.