Upon purchasing our Midcentury Modern home, my wife Tina and I maintained a goal to keep the character as original as possible. As we made minor cosmetic changes, we determined that we needed a light switch at the bottom of our staircase. We didn’t want to lose the feel from the rest of the home’s unique porcelain-based light switches—which were made in Switzerland—so the hunt began.
Not finding a good source online, our hunt extended to a local search. Fortunately, our home’s breaker box had the original electric contractor’s name on the door and included their address from 1963. I looked up the address, and to my surprise, the company was still in business—or so I thought. The next day I stopped by the office. Upon entering it was apparent that the place hadn’t been updated since it was built in the early ’60s. There was only one guy, and he appeared to be cleaning out his office. With excitement in my voice, I introduced myself and provided him with the background story. I proceeded to show him the light switch and ask if he had any hidden away in the back. He examined the switch and said, “Yes, I remember the switch, but we don’t have any.”
He then told me that he sold the business and needed to be out within a few weeks. I felt a bit discouraged but continued to prompt him for more information about the history of his business as well as the new owners. Turns out it had been a family owned business that, like many small businesses, was hit hard by the recession. Due to lack of interest and declining profits, he made the difficult decision to sell to it to a larger electrical contractor. After sharing about the company, he provided me with the contact information of the new owners.
Several days later, I called the new owners to inquire about the unique light switches and any old inventory they might have. The new owner, Robert, was a bit interested in why I wanted old switches to put in a house. He didn’t understand why we wouldn’t just go to the local big box hardware store for light switches. After telling Robert all about our home in my overly excited voice he said, “I have never heard of anyone who likes lighting from that time period, you need to come to my warehouse. I have pallets of new old stock lighting from the ’60s and ’70s.”
Obviously, upon hearing that he had pallets of new old stock (NOS), I could hardly contain my excitement. Maintaining my composure as best as possible, we scheduled an appointment for the following week. Driving to the warehouse, the thought crossed my mind that it would be another dead end; however, I tried to stay positive. Once we met at an abandoned warehouse out in the country, Robert proceeded to tell me that the warehouse was used as a storage facility to house the inventory from business he had acquired over the last few years. Robert led me to the back corner where there were, in fact, pallets of NOS lighting from Moe Lighting, Prescolite and Lightolier. Jackpot!
The corner was dimly lit, so I used my cellphone flashlight and opened each box, pulling out lights and asking prices. Robert suggested that I make a pile and then discuss a price. After many hours of digging in my own personal light heaven, I had a vanload of treasures. We agreed on a reasonable price, and I headed back to my own warehouse.
I couldn’t wait to call Tina to tell her about the lighting. Although I didn’t find any of our light switches, she was still incredibly excited to see the fresh inventory for her so-called “shopping trips” at my warehouse. As usual, she confiscated several of the finds for use in our home and the remaining inventory went up for sale.
Chad Baker is a knowledgeable midcentury enthusiast who has been digging for mid mod treasure for more than 10 years. As a result, he has a plethora of stories about rescuing, restoring and scoring great finds. Along with his wife, Tina, Chad lives in a stunning North Carolina home that the couple has lovingly preserved. For more on Chad, visit antiquefanparts.com.