The odds were against Ed Delman back in 1961. Armed with little more than a strong work ethic and the desire to go into business for himself, the young husband and father opened Alexandria Lighting Supply. Today, in a building that has become a landmark on North Henry Street in Old Town, the company is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
"My dad always was a good salesperson," said Ellen Delman Rydell, who, along with brother Eric, manages the day-to-day operations. "He still is and comes in almost every day to check on how things are running and to talk with the customers."
Alexandria Lighting Supply originally opened its doors on May 21, 1961 in a building on Powhatan Street and moved to its present location in 1964. Ed Delman handled the customers while his wife Edith did the bookkeeping.
"This really is a true family business," Rydell said. "Eric and I learned the ropes growing up, cleaning the showroom and working alongside our parents when we could."
Eric Delman has always been a part of the business but Rydell "did my own thing" for a few years before taking over the bookkeeping duties from her mother.
"I actually have a degree in horticulture," Rydell said with a laugh. "But the pull with a family business is hard for outsiders to understand and I realized I needed to be here."
Rydell credits her father's unwavering commitment to customer service for the company's longevity and success.
"It's hard for any business to survive for 50 years," Rydell said. "Like everyone else we've had our ups and downs but my father always believed that going the extra mile and putting our customers first needed to be our top priority."
Rydell is quick to give credit to the store's 12 employees, some of whom have been with Alexandria Lighting for decades.
"We have the hardest working employees by far," Rydell said. "It's tough to compete with the Home Depots and Lowes, but they really put in the extra effort to get special products for our customers that can't be found anywhere else."
Rydell's daughter Janna works with her mother managing the showroom office, marking the third generation of Delmans to work in the family business.
"It sounds corny but dad always had the mentality that hard work pays off," Rydell said. "I know it's old fashioned but we are really proud of our customer service and will continue to work hard to let people know that."