2012 OTTY Awards: Lighting Up the East Side

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By Ashley Welch

Running a business in New York City was never something David Brooks planned on doing. Born in Queens, he left his hometown for St. Louis at 24 to study law. He met his wife Faye there and they were practicing tax law in 1981 when Brooks received a call that his father, Philip, was ill. He had a decision to make: return to New York to take over his father's light bulb store or stay in St. Louis and let the shop fall by the wayside.

He chose the former.

"We packed our stuff and moved to the city," he said. "It was a bit traumatic and a huge change in lifestyle."

Brooks, 57, planned on practicing law in New York, but due to a number of circumstances, including his father's declining health, it was not possible. But he does not regret his decision, joking, "The happiest lawyers are former lawyers."

Just Bulbs opened in 1980, though Philip has been in the light bulb business, selling door-to-door, since 1942. The shop prides itself on selling every type of light bulb, including incandescent, halogen, fluorescent, mercury, sodium and metal halide. The store also stocks projection lamps, lighting for photo and stage, specialty bulbs for medical and scientific use and light bulbs for automotive and aviation applications, among others. In addition, Just Bulbs offers lighting consultations, repairs and cleanings.

Brooks said that this wide selection of common and specialty products, along with a strong sense of customer service, is what makes his business thrive.

"We have the right solution for every situation," he said. "Some people come in here and know exactly what they want, but a lot of people aren't sure what it is that they need, so they come in and talk to us. We know what questions to ask to help them find exactly what they're looking for."

Just Bulbs employs nine staff members, many of whom have over 20 years of experience in the light bulb industry and are ready to answer any lighting-related questions. He admits that running a business is hard work, but it is rewarding. The store is open seven days a week, nine hours a day, and he puts in most of those hours himself.

"It's challenging because you're always on call," he said, "but being your own boss, you don't have to answer to anyone-if you make mistakes, they're your own mistakes."

In 2007, Just Bulbs moved to its current location on the Upper East Side from its previous home on Broadway and 22nd Street. Brooks said he was surprised by the warm welcome he received from the other shop owners in the area.

"All the businesses here are like a small community," he said. "We all know each other and get along and give each other discounts. It's a nice feeling."

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