For more than 36 of her 89 years, this lighting veteran has been cheerfully helping consumers at Capitol Lighting.
“I was in my 50s when I started part-time with Capitol Lighting in the Woodbridge Center location,” she recalls. Her prime motivation was to do something interesting after raising her family. Saggiomo was on the job when Herman Lebersfeld’s daughter Joanie and son Eric had graduated college and joined the family business. “I love them both,” she confesses, adding, “Joanie still sends me cards.”
When the Woodbridge store closed, Saggiomo commuted 20+ miles to the Lawrenceville store. “It was a trip and a half for me. My husband said I was crazy [for commuting that far], but I really liked everyone there,” she explains.
These days, Saggiomo works two days a week at the Eatontown, N.J. store, which is a more manageable commute – although not many people her age would like to drive that far, let alone still be working. “If I didn’t come here, I’d be doing volunteer work or something. I always like to be busy,” she admits.
Saggiomo is truly a people person. “I enjoy people, and you meet a lot of them working here. I love talking to young people especially,” she notes. “My job and my family [which now includes eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren] have always been important to me.”
The lighting industry is a job where interaction with people is a key ingredient. “To be in this business, you need patience. When people come in, they often don’t know what they want and you can’t rush them. [Making a sale] takes time,” she says. That process might mean customers come in many times to browse before making a decision. “People get to know you, and trust you. Then they start asking for you,” she states.
When retail became more computerized, Saggiomo rose to the challenge. “It was hard to learn how to work the computer, but I didn’t give up. I did the best I could until I could really swing into it.” Today she handles the computer as well as any of the younger staffers. “Everyone at work is like family to me. When I turned 80 years old, they had such a big party for me. I was very touched,” she recalls. Now that she is computer-savvy, her children bought her an iPad. “They wanted me to be able to email with their kids,” she quips. Saggiomo says she makes it a point to stay on top of global and local news so she has plenty to talk about with customers as they shop.
Saggiomo also considers her repeat clients to be like close friends. One of her loyal customers moved to North Carolina, but came in to order fixtures while she was in New Jersey visiting relatives. Having trusted Saggiomo’s expertise for years, the customer consulted with her to find the perfect kitchen dining fixture to ship to her home.
“Selecting lamps and lighting fixtures is a matter of personal taste. There is no right or wrong. I tell customers that they have to feel something when they see it. If there is something about it they don’t like, they’ll never be happy with it. Sometimes that means they might have to spend a little more [than they had planned], but in the end, they will have something that they love,” she says. Sure enough, Saggiomo has had customers come back and show her photos of their homes with the fixtures they purchased at her suggestion and talk about how happy they are about the decision.
Saggiomo prides herself on being honest with her customers. “I once had a manager tell me that I was too honest,” she chuckles. “I will say something if the item is not right for the customer.” Clearly her clients value her opinion. “It’s also the way you treat customers that matters,” she comments.
“The bottom line about succeeding in this business is that you have to like people – because you’re going to meet all kinds! I look for the good in everyone. You have to listen and pay attention,” she affirms.
Saggiomo makes an effort to stay current on trends. “I take a look at TV [home] shows and flip through design magazines. I also like to shop and observe what’s going on at retail; that’s what fulfills me. I’m a very enthusiastic person,” she says.
Capitol Lighting’s Hy Goldman to Celebrate 100th Birthday
Caroline Saggiomo isn’t the only long-term employee at Capitol Lighting, which has showrooms throughout New Jersey and Florida. Hy Goldman has worked for 72 years at the lighting retailer, coming in four times a week at the East Hanover, N.J. store. Like Saggiomo, Goldman drives himself to work. Next month, Goldman will reach the century mark – and he has no plans to retire. These days Goldman enjoys creating lighting fixtures and lamps out of salvaged parts.
The Huffington Post recently did an interview with Goldman and with the chain’s co-chairman Herman Lebersfeld, who was quoted as saying he considers Goldman to be his mentor in the business. “He has done every position he could do,” Lebersfeld told The Huffington Post. “He taught me everything I know about warehousing.”
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