As the Valley grows, so does the demand for special light bulbs. Scott Schneider, 56, discovered this fact back in the mid-1980s when he opened his first electrical supply store in Phoenix. At the time, the proverbial light went off in his head.
OK, that’s a cliché, but it does cast light on Schneider’s motives for opening his first Lighting Unlimited store in 1990 in Scottsdale.
“I wanted a business that wouldn’t be hurt by a decline in the overall market, like the Depression, yet I wanted to sell a product that had a growing demand,” said Schneider, who worked at his family-owned electrical supply stores in Chicago before moving to the Valley in 1979.
“Special lighting was that product.”
Special lighting is the term for specifically designed equipment and supplies that will provide controlled illumination for residential, commercial, industrial and virtually wherever lights can be used.
The first Lighting Unlimited store at 7625 E. Redfield Road, Scottsdale was a relatively small facility that sold several hundred kinds of lighting supplies, including bulbs and electrical units.
Schneider was the owner and only employee.
Today, the company has four stores — Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale and Peoria, sells more than 2,500 different brands of supplies, has 17 employees and expects to earn more than $2.5 million in sales for 2006 and probably more for the coming year, Schneider said.
“Our next goal is to open a warehouse near Sky Harbor International Airport that will hold all of our supplies and, eventually, open more wholesale-retail outlets in the Tucson area,” Schneider said.
He said his company is the only one of its kind in Arizona.
“There are about ten wholesale electrical suppliers in the Valley and one, small walk-in retailer,” said Schneider, who in the mid-1990s expanded his services to include both wholesale and retail products. “Today, we’re the only supplier that handles both.”
The newest facility is a 2,600-square-foot combination warehouse and walk-in store in a small, commercial center at 535 W. Iron Avenue, Mesa.
The building is hidden behind the giant Home Depot that faces busy Country Club Drive near U.S. 60.
Asked whether his newest store — as well as the others — is difficult for potential customers to find, Schneider answered:
“We’re a destination, not an impulse store.”
He said nearly all of his customers, both homeowners and commercial builders, go to his stores to find a special lighting product, one they want to provide specific lighting demands, rather than going on an experimental shopping tour.
“We get a lot of referrals from our neighbor, Home Depot, and we’re thankful to them for it,” Schneider said.
Schneider began working in his family’s Chicago company after graduating with a degree in business law and economics from the University of Wisconsin. His parents as well as two brothers and a sister have also moved from the Windy City to the Valley.
The electrical supply business, meanwhile, is experiencing growth, not only because of the population, housing and industrial and commercial development in Arizona and nationally, but also because of advances in lighting technology.
“Years ago, the basic light bulb was an incandescent bulb, the kind you screw into a lamp, for example,” said Schneider. “Subsequently, the fluorescent, or long-tube light you see in office ceilings came along and now, the big demand is for LEDs, or light-emitting diode. They’re more expensive, but in the long run they reduce the cost of electricity.”
Schneider enjoys golf, racquetball and selling lighting equipment.
Family: Wife, Carla; sons Evan and Cory and daughter, Lauren; daughter-in-law, Sara Schneider
Resides in: Scottsdale
Occupation: Founder and president of Lighting Unlimited, a combination wholesale and retail company that sells more than 2,500 light bulbs and electrical equipment from four locations in the Valley with headquarters at 7625 E. Redfield Road, Scottsdale
Key achievements: Opened first lighting supply store in Scottsdale in 1990 and has since expanded to four locations in Mesa, Phoenix and Peoria. Expects gross sales for 2006 to reach more than $2.5 million
Success philosophy: First, start a business that will not be affected by a downturn in the building industry. Then, provide equipment that is in constant and growing demand, like lights. Finally, help people find exactly what they’re looking for.
Information: (480) 483-1177 or www.lightsonthenet.com