World’s Only Antique Electric Meter Enterprise Marks 35th Year
The Arcman Corporation, a small Pennsylvania firm, is marking its 35th year as the world’s only business dedicated to the preservation and marketing of antique electric house meters as old-technology artifacts. Its product line incorporates brass-trimmed meters nearly a century old, restored and crafted into a series of executive desk and table lamps. When switched on, the animated meters record the lamp bulbs’ energy use.
Scranton, PA (PRWeb) August 4, 2011 - - - The world’s only company dedicated to the preservation and marketing of Edison-era electrical artifacts is marking its 35th year in business. In 1976, the Arcman Corporation created and sold its first product, a glass-domed executive desk lamp crafted from an operating 1920’s miniature-size, brass-trimmed electric house meter. Since then, the small firm on the outskirts of Scranton PA has amassed the world’s largest inventory of antique electric meters awaiting restoration and conversion to its unique product line.
Jim Sovaiko, the company’s founder and president, was a U.S. Marine engineering officer home on leave in 1973 when he discovered a cache of antique electric meters in an abandoned salvage yard. Sensing a potential business opportunity for the unusual find, he arranged to purchase them from the owner.
“The Marines were transferring me to Japan for a year and the yard owner was about to smash and dumpster them for disposal, so there was an immediate need for action. I was very fortunate to arrange with friends to haul and store them as I flew off to Tokyo.”
“The idea developed to convert them into unique desk lamps with functioning, animated meters wired into the bulb circuitry, but there weren’t enough to create a viable business.”
After his military discharge, Sovaiko pursued the idea further. “A crash course in the history of electrical distribution revealed that the meters were actually some of the first ever designed to calculate residential electric bills. For the most part, these meters were the first ones installed when homeowners upgraded from kerosene lamps and gaslights to light bulbs.”
“Unlike modern heavy-duty meters, these early meters are quite small” Sovaiko relates. “They have jeweled mechanical movements not unlike a fine watch and an amazing 36,000,000-to-1 recording gear ratio. They also employ a generous amount of brass, which when polished, greatly enhances their visual appeal.”
Further research revealed both good and bad news. An exhaustive nationwide survey disclosed that additional antique meters were still available from various electric utilities, but they had to be purchased immediately as they were all headed for destruction.
Overextending his finances, Sovaiko went for broke in securing these endangered meters. In true entrepreneurial spirit, though, he decided the debt was worth the undertaking. “An expenditure of a few hundred thousand dollars locked in a potential return in excess of 55 million dollars over the restoration period, based on initial customer demand and sales.”
All has not been a financial bed of roses, however. Decades of additional acquisitions to further bolster the inventory have impacted cash flow, but “an increased restoration pace planned for 2011-2012 will easily clear this up,” Sovaiko states. “There is a need to address some chronic conversion bottlenecks and work up sales levels to better handle debt service obligations.”
Sovaiko’s optimism is fortified by the fact that micro-size Arcman Corporation, with no direct competition, is now by default a world monopoly with its unique niche products. Additionally, Arcman’s current market penetration level of less than 1% affords many expansion opportunities.
Furthermore, the value of Arcman’s massive inventory, now in protective storage, increases in value as the years pass. Beyond this, a series of unrelated patentable products are expected to eclipse the current product line.
Today, Arcman Corporation’s restored electrical artifacts may be found on display from Boston to Beijing and from Indianapolis to Islamabad. Personally engraved, they have been presented to heads of state, top corporate executives and a diversity of others who today own a unique piece of functioning electrical Americana rescued from certain destruction.
“Our products have been around long enough to occasionally show up on internet auction sites, usually as an estate sale. It’s always enlightening to examine close-up images of our ‘Made in USA’ creations after many years of use to confirm that our designs and workmanship hold up very well. From the meter dial pointer positions, it’s apparent that some have operated 24/7/365, but the jeweled meter movements take it all in stride,” Sovaiko observes.
As to the company staff, “A miniscule number of skilled antique electric meter techs are employed on the planet, and they probably all work for the Arcman Corporation. No one else does what we do, and our pride of workmanship is such that each restoration is signed by its craftsman.”
In 2009, the IEEE’s “Power & Energy” magazine’s January issue featured the Arcman Corporation story with a comprehensive illustrated article. This article, as well as additional information on the enterprise, is available at the company’s website:
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Jim Sovaiko, President