How did Arcman Corporation get started?
a single word were to summarize the company’s origins, it would be
Sovaiko, the company’s founder, was a U.S. Marine engineering officer
home on leave in 1973 when he happened upon what would lay the
foundation for Arcman Corporation as it exists today.
a local scrapyard for steel parts to use in an amateur science project,
Jim happened upon a cache of old electric meters that had been
languishing there for decades. The yard owner, pressed for space,
intended to have them crushed and hauled away in a matter of days.
a vague, yet somewhat unique business opportunity in the meters, Jim
hastily gathered some old school buddies at a local pizza parlor to
recount his find. He was due to leave for a year’s tour in the Far East
and if immediate action wasn’t taken at the scrapyard, the meters would
be forever lost.
around a sample meter with the mozzarella, the group agreed that Jim
found a mother lode of very old watthour meters, the type used by
electric utilities to bill residential customers for service. Someone
mentioned the word “lamp” as a possible adaptation for the meters, and
the idea stuck.
handshakes, Jim recruited two friends as business partners in the
uncertain, embryonic business venture. Jim left for Japan, but not
before they chipped in to buy the entire lot of meters for $500. His
partners were left with the onerous task of hauling the meters to
no-cost temporary safe storage. Half went to one’s basement and half to
an abandoned apartment building
the time, the group envisioned a limited venture whereby restorable
meters would be converted to lamps, the lamps sold, the profits
divided, and the venture dissolved. As was later learned, however, the
idea of a working meter-lamp combination was not that original, so
their unique twist would portray the antique, early-technology aspect
of these particular meters.
mounted rapidly, however. Apart from an earlier attempt by the
scrapyard owner to cancel the deal in the middle of the move, other
hurdles appeared. Restorable meter glasses proved to be at a premium.
At the outset, most meters had missing or damaged glass. Additional
glass was damaged in transit, and the partners’ gamble that enough
hidden meters would be uncovered with good glass wasn’t paying off as
well as they had hoped.
when the glass problem appeared at its worst, they discovered that many
of the intact glasses had deeply-etched discolorations that defied
removal by any means. Without enough undamaged crystal-clear glass,
there was little point in pursuing the project.
if matters couldn’t worsen, they did. Operating expenses during this
R&D period were much greater than anticipated. The tiny venture had
no sales prospects, no experience in what it was trying to do, and no
money left in the bank. To top it off, the meter storage property
owners wanted their thousands of ne’er-do-well tenants evicted.
Jim’s discharge from the Marines, his two partners rightfully cut their
losses and bailed out, leaving the ill-fated partnership in ruins.
there was ever a time to throw in the towel, that was it,” Jim recalls.
“My friends made proper decisions under the circumstances, but my gut
feelings ran contrary despite everything that had happened.”
freshly-steeped in the Corps’ “gung-ho” tradition, the idea of quitting
anything grated on him. Using the last of his overseas military pay, he
decided to press on with the venture.
additional funds from family, I installed an out-WATS phone line,
bought a specialized electric utility directory, hired a canvasser, and
after nearly 500 hours of phone work,
sifted through the results of a first-ever, national antique electric
meter availability profile. Each and every lead was meticulously
revealed that enough meter glass would probably be available nationwide
to resurrect the enterprise. Consultation with a glassworking engineer
led to the building of a customized meter glass polishing machine that
solved the vexing discoloration problem. Assembled largely from
junkyard parts, this machine is used to this day and is worth its
weight in platinum!
all of the newfound meters, though, were scheduled for imminent
destruction, as the owning utilities weren’t in the nostalgia and
preservation business. Thus began a most unusual buying spree, with
meters trucked in from across the country to a rented warehouse in
Scranton. In many of these instances, the saved meters unfortunately
represented the end of an ongoing retirement process, with untold
numbers destroyed beforehand.
after, products were designed and built, and ad circulars printed and
mailed. Initial orders proved that there was indeed a very strong
market for such one-of-a-kind, original electrical old-tech
restorations. The first employee was hired and trained, and several
others were subsequently added to staff what is today the world’s only
antique electric meter restoration team!
of the foregoing, of course, tells only a fragmentary tale of how this business got launched. Tons of credit
are due family, friends, longstanding customers, newfound
collaborators, and especially the Lord, who can make anything possible.