Erin Howle, lighting consultant at Joseph’s Electrical Center, says the family business began in the 1960s with her great-grandfather, Mike Lanza, as part of his electrical contracting business, Lake Charles Electric. “My grandfather, Joseph (Joe) Lanza, bought the showroom and electrical supply house portion in 1973, and Joseph’s Electrical Center, as we know it today, was born,” she says.
Joe Lanza retired in the late 1990s. But Erin says he continued to come to the store every day up until just months before his death. “He passed away in 2015, but he was very proud of the fact that he was able to provide a livelihood to his children through the family business. At the time of his death, four of his six children and one of his six grandchildren worked in the business, though others had worked here at one time or another over the years.”
The business is currently owned by Joe’s wife, Flo, and there are four family members who work at the store. Flo is 90 years old and does accounts payable and payroll. Danny (Joe and Flo’s son) does accounts receivable and manages electrical sales. Randy (another son) oversees the decorative and landscape lighting portion as well as the window displays. And Erin (Joe & Flo’s granddaughter) does showroom sales and marketing.
As a kid, she recalls going to “the shop” after school and during the summers. “I built houses out of light fixture boxes and roller skated through the showroom and warehouse to see how fast I could finish the route.”
Erin says the lighting industry has changed drastically over the last few decades. “In the beginning, we only carried a few decorative lighting lines because they mostly offered the same types of things. We could fit all the fixtures for a new house in something the size of a grocery cart. But over the years, lighting has become an integral part of the decorative home furnishings industry, and we now buy from over 150 different lighting companies. We can get pretty much anything our customers want. If it’s not something we are familiar with, we will research it and find out more. We have recently ordered custom hand-blown glass fixtures from Italy and currently have a custom seven-foot-wide chandelier on order for a customer. But even with big projects like those, we still sell everyday light fixtures and light bulbs.”
Moving forward, Erin says the family plans to do what they’ve always done. “We want to provide the best electrical and lighting expertise and selection of residential lighting and fan products in our area.” And will the company remain in the family? Erin is currently the youngest person in the business. Her oldest son is age 14. We’ll see!