HAVERSTRAW – When the queen of England strolls through Buckingham Palace admiring her artwork, she sees it more clearly because of a little company in Rockland County.
Lexstar Inc., which makes specialty light fixtures, recently signed a new client: the Royal Collection Trust, which manages the art collection of the British royal family. The trust purchases Lexstar’s lights for small-sized pictures at the palaces.
The company’s success is a coup for this little village on the Hudson. It was once known as the brick-making capital of the world, but, like much of the nation, has lost manufacturing jobs over the years. Even after the brick business dried up, other companies closed, leaving a dearth of jobs. Louis Hornick Co., for example, a curtain manufacturer that called Haverstraw home since 1949, closed in 2008, laying off 60 employees.
But Lexstar, which opened more than 40 years ago, manufacturing lighting fixtures for households and businesses, has survived. Over the years, Uri Redlich, Lexstar’s owner, has kept up with the changes in the lighting industry, from incandescent to halogen to florescent to light-emitting diode. He’s been adjusting his designs and creating new products. As he faced competition from overseas imports, instead of giving up, he found a new niche with a fixture that uses small LED bulbs suited for artwork, and reinvented his company.
“We have to be innovative,” he said. “You have to be.”
The company’s products have been sought after by interior designers for celebrities, and he has sold his lights to galleries and museums as well as high-end stores such as Gracious Home.
The first order from the Royal Collection Trust came about six months ago through Lexstar’s agent in London. The trust decided to try out Lexstar’s small picture lights and ordered 15 of them for Buckingham Palace, Redlich said. A couple of months later, the trust ordered an additional 25 for the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.
“The products from a little company in the village of Haverstraw that nobody ever heard of are in the Buckingham Palace!” said Redlich. “I felt very, very good. It’s not because of the money. It’s the prestige.”
Redlich, 68, an Israeli immigrant, launched his business after ditching his initial goal to make a living as a photographer. He moved his company to Lincoln Street from West Haverstraw about 20 years ago, employing 30 workers at its peak. Keeping up with a changing industry wasn’t an issue until about 10 years ago, when competition with Chinese imports became unmanageable.
“Our problem was that the material cost us more than the finished products coming from China. That’s killing America,” Redlich said.
To help meet costs, he reduced payroll through attrition, and now has only a handful of employees on the books. One of them, Edwin Jeanty, 55, of Spring Valley, was at the warehouse the other day, working a metal spinning machine. In a gentle, seamless movement, he plunged the machine into a sheet of steel to shape it into a base for a floor lamp.
The small LED lamps sold to the Royal Collection Trust are capable of shedding light in different angles, from 60 degrees to 14 degrees. Artwork in different sizes would be adequately lit because of this function, Redlich said.
Hanae Tsuji, assistant press officer for the trust, said in an email that the organization “would not comment on the work undertaken at the Royal Residences by external companies. I’m sorry for the disappointing response.”
But an email from Lexstar’s London agent to Redlich included comments from administrators of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, expressing their satisfaction. The remarks ended with the phrase, “couldn’t be happier.”