Rittenhouse Electric Supply
- Written by: Jeanee Dudley
- Produced by: Caitlin Mugford
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
Rittenhouse Electric Supply has been lighting up Main Line Philadelphia since 1957. Norman Aronson established the business 58 years ago as a small mom-and-pop shop. In the early days, Rittenhouse Electric was a simple operation, selling basic electric supplies and a small selection of light fixtures. Over the years, the family-owned and -operated business has grown into a leading supplier of high-end light fixtures serving customers around Philadelphia and throughout the United States.
Now Rittenhouse Electric has entered its third generation of family operation. Norman’s grandsons, Mike and Adam Elkins, are partners at the business. Their parents are still actively involved and they work alongside their children. The family employs 25 people between a storefront and two warehouses in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.
Filling a niche
“We pay the careful attention to the upper echelons of the industry,” says Mike. “We focus on higher-end fixtures and customized lighting control. Our very knowledgeable counter and commercial lighting department attend to customers’ needs, and our stellar showroom services homeowners as well as designers, architects, builders and electricians with well-established product lines and custom fixtures that we design in-house.”
Rittenhouse Electric carries a wide breadth of products, a factor that sets the company apart from competitors. “We have been in business so long that we carry everything everyone else carries, including home-center items, but we like to promote and display domestically produced products as well,” Mike elaborates. “We are in an area where customers look for quality. We have quite a number of European-made products too, and customization is huge with our clientele.”
Educating customers on their options has been a major component of the company’s growth. Mike reports that many people do not know they can have something beyond the catalog. “Our made-to-order capabilities really add value for our clients.”
While most lighting stores serve specifically as storefronts, Mike notes that Rittenhouse Electric goes beyond that. While the company does sell lighting products, relationships and values have a bigger impact.
“Selling the right light fixture for an application goes beyond simply selling a product; we are selling imagination,” says Mike. “My philosophy – and it might sound crazy – is that we are beautifying the world one light at a time. That’s what I want out of my business. We are not all about pushing quantity and margins. Our customers recognize that; they want the best and we do our best to help them get it.”
Distinctive products and services
While many showrooms deal only in overseas, mass-produced product lines, Rittenhouse Electric provides customers with well-made products and more options than expected from a small, specialty showroom. Mike notes, “Right now I have a manufacturer that can take any image and print it on a fixture. I told them to print Van Gogh’s Almond Blossoms (1893) on to a fabric drum pendant for display. It looks beautiful and has already sold quite nicely!”
“A lot of people come to me and pre-boxed product simply won’t work for their needs,” he adds. “Then we move to sketching a fixture and choosing from one of our dozen custom manufacturers who can take our designs and make them happen. Those are always the most rewarding projects.”
Adam Elkins heads up the lighting control division at Rittenhouse Electric, which provides a seamless, turnkey solution that unites builders, programming and installers when implementing whole-house or commercial Lutron lighting control automation. “Our reputation in lighting control leads us to jobs all over the country including my favorite destination: the Caribbean,” says Adam.
Directed by Ann Birman, Rittenhouse Electric’s commercial lighting department has grown tremendously in the last few years. With a cadre of well-known loyal lighting designer-customers, Rittenhouse is able to supply hospitality, restaurant and commercial jobs up and down the East Coast as well as throughout the country. What sets Rittenhouse apart is the team’s knowledge base and deep connections to the manufacturers. “If a project can’t meet a schedule or budget, I help generate designer-approved substitutions that maintain the integrity of the original specification, relates Ann. “We do our best to keep our projects on time – every time.”
Outside the more visual aspect of the business’ sales, Rittenhouse Electric boasts serious expertise in the realm of electrical components. “On the nuts and bolts side of the business, our team is highly knowledgeable especially about lighting control systems,” Mike says. “It all goes hand-in-hand. With higher-end residential and commercial projects, we might be dealing with $600-a-piece recessed lights. We have to make sure they work properly with the installed lighting control system.”
The company’s customers include hundreds of electricians who rely solely on Rittenhouse Electric for a broad product line, excellent service and decades of expertise. “These are the people who have made up the core of our business since my grandfather’s time,” says Mike. “We service them the best we possibly can and take any constructive criticism seriously – from any of our clients. I think that’s what business should be about.”
Rittenhouse also maintains strong relationships with suppliers. The business is one of largest Lutron distributors in the country. The brand offers high-end dimming systems and lighting control for residential and commercial applications.
This partnership helps the company to better serve builders, architects and lighting designers. These customers see Rittenhouse Electric as an important resource not only for materials, but also for information. “We are small enough that we don’t get pigeonholed,” Mike adds. “We are into many different types of projects from residences to restaurants and we have a lot of latitude in the market.”
Continuing a tradition
Despite the ups and downs of the economy, Mike says the business has remained steady. Many of the company’s employees have been with Rittenhouse Electric for several decades. Their expertise is a great asset to the business and part of what brings customers back time and again.
Meanwhile, the management of Rittenhouse Electric has been setting and achieving sales and growth goals and meeting them consistently, all while maintaining high levels of service and an engaging display and inventory.
Mike and his team are staying abreast of emerging trends. More modern fixtures are growing in popularity and the custom market continues to grow. Customers looking for high-end pieces continue to look to Rittenhouse Electric for unique lighting solutions and the controls that keep them working smoothly.
Through a distinct combination of creativity, technology and knowledge, Rittenhouse Electric Supply is continuing a three-generation strong tradition of providing quality light fixtures and electrical materials.
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