“Hey mom,” said my son, “this lamp cord is smoking.” No, not a cigarette. The cord was sparking.
The lamp, a mid-century Danish model I found on eBay, had a faulty cord from the beginning. To get it to work, you had to jiggle it. Any slightest bump from the vacuum cleaner or the dog would knock the cord out of its delicate alignment.
I quickly unplugged it and then began the search for a place that repairs lamps. (Yes, yes, yes, I could have done it myself watching a YouTube video, but it meant replacing the socket, etc. As the bumper sticker says, “Wiring isn’t a hobby.”)
My search brought up Optech in Andover, MA. No website. Just a Yelp listing, which said yes, they repair lamps. Great!
This piece isn’t about Made in USA per se, although a few items make a cameo appearance. It’s more about why I love quirky small businesses and how they become success stories.
A treasure of a store — literally filled with treasure
I walked into the store on a Friday afternoon. The store is amazing — it looks like a cluttered garage sale. A table full of old metal desk lamps sports a sign: Make an offer.
Actually, a few of the shelves do, too — such as this one with used camera and equipment bags for sale.
The two owners didn’t hear me come in. They were talking behind the big display. A huge cat slept by the door. I was itching to look at all the stuff on the cluttered shelves.
Finally, they noticed me — and yes, they can replace the lamp cord. As I do wherever I go, I started asking questions.
The business, Optech, was started by John and Gary Keleshian’s father in 1965 — he specialized in all things cameras. Identical twins, John and Gary bought the current building in 1998.
According to Gary, it had been slated for demolition, but they put all their money and sweat equity into it and brought it back to life. “Everyone thought we were crazy,” he said.
Like their father, the brothers specialized in cameras and associated equipment, darkroom supplies, film, projectors, etc. and even did film development onsite.
With the advent of the camera phone, however, business changed.
They fix lamps — and old film projectors — plus anything else you need
Today, the Keleshian brothers specialize in fixing things, including old 16mm and 35mm film projectors. In fact, they’re one of the few companies in the U.S. doing this work. People from all over the country contact them and send in their projectors for repair.
“We’re crazy busy,” said Gary.
When I asked how people heard about them, he said, “Oh, word of mouth. We sell a lot of stuff on eBay and Amazon as well.”
In addition to fixing things, such as vintage lamps with frayed cords and projectors, they also sell vintage cameras and film. When I asked why, Gary replied, “The kids buy the cameras and the film. They love it.”
I asked, “But who develops the film?” They send the film out and the prints come back within a week.
Kodak, by the way, may have declared bankruptcy, but their film is still manufactured in New Jersey. (Link to all sources below.)
They also sell lightbulbs of all types
When I pulled out my wallet to pay for the repair, Gary asked if I needed a lightbulb. When I said yes, he brought back a GE, Made in USA, 3-way incandescent bulb. OMG!! 😍
According to their line card, they stock over 25,000 bulb types for optical, medical, dental, graphic projection, and fiber optics for all major brands and many you’ve probably never heard of. Add vintage projector bulbs to the list as well.
Why I love this story
We used to be a nation where we manufactured and purchased things that were expected to last for a lifetime — if not longer.
It’s one reason I buy vintage furniture; I love running my hands over the minute dings, scratches and other blemishes. Each piece has a story to tell, and solid construction means I can add my own chapter, including puppy teeth marks (ha!).
We also used to fix things versus tossing items in landfills — either doing the repairs ourselves or getting a repairman to help: aka Maytag’s iconic “ol’ lonely” repairman. (In fact, the Maytag website includes a section where you can troubleshoot issues and download documentation.)
I’ve always worked to fix things whenever possible. When I was a broke college student, I drove a beat up VW Beetle; when one of the heads blew, I dropped the engine, replaced the heads, put the engine back in, and started her up. I drove that car for several years after!
So it thrills me that two gentlemen are carrying on this tradition in the very best entrepreneurial fashion possible.
How to find Optech
Optech Lighting on Amazon — Find new and vintage bulbs of all types.
Optech on eBay — Lots of stuff here, including new and vintage bulbs, vintage cameras and accessories, and projectors. Happy browsing!
Physical location: 19A Lupine Road, Andover, MA 01810 / T: 978-475-4831 / email: email@example.com
How Kodak film is made plus video factory tour — Digital Camera World
Maytag Service — Troubleshoot issues
Not mentioned: Floyd — Modular furniture built to last versus ending up in landfills — Interview with the founders
I’m not paid nor asked to write about Made in the USA products or the companies that make them. All links in this piece are “free.”
My mission is to keep manufacturing jobs stateside and this blog is my way of giving back. We like to think a “small” choice, such as purchasing something made in the US by American workers, won’t make a difference. It does.