Let there be light

Beaverton Light Shoppe survives on old-fashioned business values
by: Mikel Kelly, SHE’S IN CHARGE — Julie Mottern, manager of the Beaverton Light Shoppe, at 5355 S.W. Western Ave., greets customers at the entrance to her store. “We’re just little guys,” she says, “and we stay under the radar.”

Ever since humans learned what wonders a little fire could do to a dark old cave, we've been improving on ways to light our homes. We've been attaching fixtures to walls, ceilings, fans, chandeliers, pendants, posts, tabletops and even hiding it in recessed holes, behind boards and under glass.

Lighting design has become a whole industry unto itself, and the lighting experts on home remodeling programs are getting as much face time as interior decorators, color coordinators and the tool-toting craftspeople who specialize in flooring, countertops and cabinets.

The Beaverton Light Shoppe, at 5355 S.W. Western Ave., is one of those old-school businesses that has survived a viciously competitive environment that has seen the arrival of monster box stores and consolidation of little shops into chains of larger ones.

Owner Jerry Caputo opened the store in 1982, but his sister, Julie Mottern, is the manager.

'I have been with this company since '84,' says Mottern. 'Twenty-two years.'

After operating at a couple of downtown Beaverton locations, the Beaverton Light Shoppe has been in the brick building on Western Avenue for about the last 16 years.

The showroom is sizable, though not huge, and a small warehouse is located in back. And perhaps the sales area's primary claim to fame is that it doesn't have every square inch of floor crammed with lights. They are mostly spread around the outside of the display space, with plenty of room for customers to roam around and look. Mottern likes it that way.

'A knowledgeable staff'

'I think we have a nice selection in the showroom,' she says. 'It's not the biggest showroom in the city, but we're priced well, and we have a knowledgeable staff.'

She knows full well that the 'other guys' - Globe Lighting and Lamps Plus - are highly visible in the community and that those are her real competition, not Home Depot and Lowe's.

'We're just little guys,' says Mottern with an impish grin. 'And we stay under the radar.'

They've made it this long, she says, by knowing their business and providing good products at competitive prices and by putting a premium on excellent customer service. A key is knowing what they're there for.

'We're catering to somebody who's remodeling or wanting to update their lighting fixtures,' says Mottern, a resident of the Vermont Hills area. The business also works with folks in the construction and remodeling business, she adds.

'An awful lot of people come here and pick our brains because they can't get the help at the bigger stores.'

And it's no accident that Beaverton Light Shoppe employees know their business. The 'seven or eight' people who work there (one is out on maternity leave right now) are trained in virtually every aspect of the business, she says.

Nobody is born knowing this stuff, she says, admitting that she has observed what happens to customers who are not acknowledged within the first 10 seconds or so of their arrival in a business ('Ten seconds is an extremely long time,' she says).

'You have to give them guidelines,' she says of new employees. 'I hire young, and I train them.'

No one in her store is a specialist.

'Because we're so small, we do everything,' says Mottern. 'We have a really strong lamp repair business, and everyone in the store is trained to do anything.'

'A little bit of everything'

'All of us can change a socket if we needed to,' she points out. 'Everybody can do anything that needs to be done for anyone because we're small. Because we're small, we can't have those specialized areas; it just doesn't work.'

And what kind of lighting products would you find if you happened into the Beaverton Light Shoppe?

'We have a little bit of everything,' says Mottern. 'A customer has a certain taste or style that they're trying to achieve.'

It's important to keep track of changing styles and trends, she says.

'Oil-rubbed bronze is very popular right now. Last year it was satin nickel, and right now antique brass is coming back.'

And if a customer wants something the store doesn't have on display, says Mottern, it can be ordered from the factory - and often is.

'We do a lot of catalog sales in here,' she says.

In addition to its assortment of table lamps, sconces, pendants, chandeliers, outdoor lighting and more, the store carries Quorum fans ('They're a good fan, and they have a nice selection') and a full line of Root candles ('We sell a lot of those').

Beaverton Light Shoppe hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. The phone number is 503-646-6584.