“If you see someone without a smile, give him yours.”
Although he did not invent the proverb–those are among the words by which Herman Lebersfeld lives his life.
Lebersfeld is the reigning patriarch over a family business that is five generations strong. He begins each day with a smile and pushes himself to accomplish more.
He is focused and determined, driven by a need to make the world around him a better place. At 76 years of age, he is propelled by a deeply ingrained “Depression Era” mindset that all he has worked for could be gone tomorrow. His work ethic and wisdom have served him well as Capitol Lighting continues to make lives brighter into their 90th year! And, Lebersfeld continues to be an innovator, inspiring his co-workers to keep Capitol Lighting at the top.
Under the helm of third, fourth and fifth generations, Capitol Lighting is comprised of eight stores with showrooms in New Jersey (East Hanover, Paramus, Eatontown and Green Brook) and South Florida (Boca Raton, Stuart, Palm Beach Gardens and Wellington). Capitol Lighting also reaches a global audience with their website 1-800lighting.com.
Herman Lebersfeld as a young boy, already a patriot and a lighting professional!
Lebersfeld was born into the lighting business. The son of work-a-holics, he spent most of his early years sleeping in a crib above the family-owned lighting store in Newark, New Jersey. By the time he was 10-years-old, he would accompany his father to work.
After graduating college, Lebersfeld married Adele Schafman and moved into an apartment across the street from the store. He worked six days a week and most weeknights. Herman’s younger brother, Max, soon followed in his brother’s footsteps. Herman’s sons, Ken and Eric, joined the company in the 1980s; Max’s three sons–Jason, Daniel and Brian–offered their expertise to the family business in the 1990s; and, most recently–Herman’s grandson, Daniel Silver, began his professional career with Capitol Lighting in 2012.
So, what are the keys to success that keep this family business going?
Education and good business sense have been important factors in the continuity of this family business. Herman recalls hiding in the back seat of his father’s car so he could visit the showroom and help out on Saturdays: “When my father found me hiding, he would turn the car around and take me home with instructions to do my school work because that was the key to my future.”
Herman now encourages his grandchildren to do well in school, especially if they want to work for him. He stresses to them that they take advantage of their educational opportunities so that they may contribute something new to Capitol Lighting.
The mutual respect family members have for one another and the trust in their shared goals have helped Capitol Lighting survive tough economic times, two world wars, and the Great Depression.
Herman with father, Arthur Lebersfeld, at the grand opening of Capitol Lighting in East Hanover in the 1960s.
Historic Capitol Lighting Highlights…
- Early 1920s: Ethel Lebersfeld immigrates to the United States from Austria-Hungary and looks to decorate her apartment in Newark, New Jersey.
- On a quest to find affordable lighting and home furnishings, Ethel goes to the wholesalers who tell her that she must be a retailer in order to buy from them.
- January 24, 1924: Ethel and her husband, Max, a well-respected electrical contractor, open a lighting store at the corner of Prince and Montgomery Streets in Newark, New Jersey and become retailers!
- Three years later–Ethel, Max and their young son, Arthur, move to a 2,000-square-foot space on Springfield Avenue in Newark, New Jersey. Arthur Lebersfeld officially changes the name of the store from “Lebersfeld’s Electrical Supply” to “Capitol Lighting.”
- In 1967, Arthur opens the largest lighting specialty store ever built, 60,000 square feet, in East Hanover, New Jersey and Capitol Lighting becomes the most important retailer of lighting in the United States.
Herman describes his father as a visionary who planted the seeds for a retail business that has endured for nearly 90 years:
“When World War II was coming to an end, Dad started talking about expanding the business. Many people told him not to expand because there would be a recession after the war, but Dad believed that the millions of soldiers coming back would want homes and all the accessories that came with home ownership, including fixtures and appliances.”
- 1970s +: Capitol Lighting opens more showrooms in New Jersey.
- 1973 +: Capitol Lighting expands to South Florida.
- 1996 +: Capitol Lighting goes worldwide at 1800lighting.com.
- October 2014: Capitol Lighting opens its newest store in Wellington, Florida.
Herman and his sons, Ken and Eric, at the Habitat for Humanity honorary ceremony in New Jersey.
Family Secrets and Herman’s 3 Most Illuminating Tips…
1. Give your brother everything willingly and lovingly.
2. Whether it be a public restroom, your friend’s garage or a fine hotel room–strive to leave every place you visit better than when you arrived.
3. Conquer your fears and greet every new day with a smile!