Shining a light on Sharon Stephens, the manager of Mr. Lightbulb, reveals a no-nonsense, yet amiable woman, making sure the lights are on around the Greater Toledo area for the last 48 years. In addition to residential customers, The Cities of Toledo and Perrysburg, the Toledo Lucas County Public Libraries, Toledo Public Schools, many area businesses, doctor’s offices, churches and school districts are also loyal customers of Sharon and her longtime assistant, Sandy Broyles.
Mr. Lightbulb is an electrical distributor where, Sharon explains, they “specialize in lighting as in fixtures, lamp replacements, and ballasts. We don’t get into conduit and wiring.” Sharon often receives calls from electricians with questions during an installation. Her knowledge about light bulbs and fixtures, items the rest of us take for granted, is expansive. During this interview Sharon took a phone call from a stumped electrician and she offered a polite, yet purposeful, response: “Didn’t you read the diagram on the ballast? I’ll send you a picture.”
An unexpected career path
Sharon gained her knowledge over a career she fell into 48 years ago when she started working for her uncle, an owner of the former Travis Lighting in the Polish Village. “The only thing I knew how to do back then was screw in a lightbulb. I learned through osmosis.” Armed with good listening skills and a desire to learn Stephens set herself up to become an expert in the field. Learning the nomenclature, figuring out the right questions to ask and learning how to read the product catalogs were her stepping stones to success. In 2006, five years after her uncle died, Sharon was lured to Mr. Lightbulb by a silent owner, 3 years later Mr. Lightbulb bought Travis Lighting. The one constant was Sharon and her wealth of knowledge.
Knowledge that spans the decades
The technology of lighting has changed considerably over the last several decades. Sharon enjoys reading up on the changes and diving into the details, making her the person to go to whether you want to replace an old fixture’s bulb or upgrade it to LED. She enjoys problem solving with her customers and helping them find difficult to locate products leading to many instances where Mr Lightbulb is the hero of a story.
No end in sight
Retirement is not in the near future however Sharon would like to cut back on her hours while rattling off all the reasons she plans on staying. “People bring a smile to my face. I love customer service and being an expert in a niche field. ” She was especially grateful for her job when she lost her husband last November. “It’s good to have a reason to get up. get cleaned up, put a smile on my face and say it’s a good day.” Sharon adds lightheartedness to the work that makes it hard to walk away from. “I like ribbing the customers, especially the men who think I must not know what I am doing since they see me as a little old lady. By the time they leave, they are putty in my hands. I have fun with the people I meet every single day.”
People would be surprised to know…
I am 77 years young! Some of my current customers are the grandchildren of my first customers!
At the end of the day I like to….go home and have a glass of wine.
Outside of work I enjoy…being with my friend and gardening.
Do you have any works in progress?
always a jigsaw puzzle.
Favorite TV show?
Share some advice that has stayed with you.
From my mother:’ Do what makes you happy.’