FIT Honoree: S. Lichtenberg & Co., Dynamic Window Fashions Icon
March 9, 2010,
As each new generation enters the business, the 77-year-old S. Licht-enberg & Co. takes on a new aura of how to do business in the home textiles world.
In a free-wheeling conversation with Michael and Scott Lichtenberg, sons of Herb, who died in November 2009, it is clear that the third generation has inherited and built upon the business precepts of their grandfather and founder Sam, as well as Herb and his older brother, the late Alan Lichtenberg.
“Our grandfather started with nothing and he realized the American dream of success,” Michael Lichtenberg commented. “He would have samples of fabrics (like ninon and marquisette that are no longer part of the window coverings lexicon), sell them to retailers, have contractors lined up to manufacture the curtains – and everything was done on credit. He'd also have the retailers paying up front, so he could pay he suppliers.”
But the service integrity and the products — as well as Sam's personality — allowed the business to grow, Michael related. “He had a great personality, was very imposing, had a heart of gold and a great sense of humor,” he added. “But he could be tough as nails and he was a big spender. My grandmother had to watch the money.”
Alan and Herb, the second generation, were different from Sam. “It was a different business and bigger dreams,” Michael related. “And by the '70s, my grandfather couldn't comprehend the size of the business. In recent years, my father never had dreamed of the scope and size of where we were going. Each generation has a different perception of the business and its potential.”
Today, the company's role is dramatically altered from what it had been. “We went from domestic production to international sourcing,” said Scott. “There's a lot more design involved. Our job today is services and solutions. We add value and we may suggest variations on a customer's spec to make it better – or fit within a pricing goal.” As an example, he said, “We could suggest making a dobby a bit smaller to save costs by have it produced on a different machine.”
In fact, Michael noted, “All products are vastly different than they were 20 years ago; there are so many fabrics now available.”
The company in recent years has moved into the decorative bedding category. “We've gone to retailers that may not be in window, as well as to window customers. We're knocking on all doors,” said Scott.
The brothers are quick to acknowledge the participation not only of their family members, Rick, who runs the Georgia distribution facility and has been with the company 35 years; as well as Corey, a recent college graduate who has “a significant role in the distribution facility,” said Scott.
But there are other long termers including Carl Goldstein, senior vp, who has been with the company close to 35 years; Marvin Schechter, senior vp, who has been with company 37 years; Lee Weisman, the controller with more than 50 years with the company; and Scott Goldstein, Carl's son who has been with the firm for 21 years. The sales force, too, logs some 20 to 30 years with the firm.
In contrast, both Scott and Michael are veritable newcomers to the ranks, with 28 and 25 years respectively in the company.
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