Michael Misewicz started Michael’s Lamp Studio in 1972 with a truck full of broken lamps. He didn’t have any lamp expertise or a particular passion for lighting. He was a salesman in the Midwest region for Simon & Schuster, and his wife wanted him to get a job that didn’t involve so much traveling. His father-in-law owned apartment buildings where tenants frequently broke lamps, and he connected Misewicz with the person who collected the broken lamps. Misewicz bought the lamps, found a small storefront about six blocks from his home, and opened Michael’s Lamp Studio.
In 1972 Misewicz, originally from Chicago, worked out of just a small storefront at 50th and Xerxes. The Michael’s Lamp Studio people visit today is a culmination of a slow expansion into two additional neighboring spaces that started in 1989. Today he sells lampshades, new and handcrafted lamps, and fixes lamps at the bustling Fulton intersection.
When Misewicz first got started, he didn’t just fix lamps, he made lamps, too.
“Because I didn’t have any money at the time, I started making lamps out of different things,” Misewicz said.
He made lamps out of wagon wheel parts, football helmets, fire extinguishers, vases and other decorations he found. Wine bottle lamps turned out to be extra popular– he sold 4,000 of them in his early days of owning the shop. He struck up a deal with the St. Anthony Main restaurant Pracna to get their empty bottles, filled the bottles with birdseed and wiring, and sold them.
“They’d go through a lot of these bottles,” Misewicz said. “So I’d go over there on Friday nights, have a hamburger and a beer and I’d get their empty wine bottles. It worked out pretty good.”
Today the store is overflowing with lamps and lamp materials. Vases that Misewicz buys at antique shows around the country line the staircase to the basement. Lampshades, which are Misewicz’s specialty, are stacked up to the ceiling beside chandeliers. When department stores cut back on their lampshade business in the 80s, Misewicz’s lampshade business boomed.
The lamp fixing business is booming as well, according to Misewicz, because modern lamps are poorly constructed and break frequently. Many of his customers bring older lamps that were passed down for generations. The older lamps, which Misewicz said are built to last, get brittle wiring after a while that need to be replaced.
Some of his customers are first-time homebuyers who are furnishing their new homes. His best tip for amateur lamp-buyers is to buy old lamps for longevity. Winter is his peak season.
“This time of year is usually the busiest for us because the days are shorter and the nights longer, and people need more light,” Misewicz said.
During the 50 years he’s been in business, Misewicz appreciates that the neighborhood hasn’t changed much. He pointed out where he remembered a Tom Thumb grocery store and a gas station. His own storefront had been a drugstore, a hair salon and sold screen-printed t-shirts. While the Fulton neighborhood hasn’t changed much, he said the lamp industry has.
“When I started there were about 12 places in the Twin Cities that sold lamps and fixed them and sold parts, but they’re all gone,” he said. “It’s been good to me.”
When asked about the future of the business, Misewicz pointed to his son, Josef, who works at the shop.
“They can be as much of the future of this as they want to be,” he said.
Josef and his coworker Ben Ratliff laughed, and Ratliff said that the senior Misewicz became “cryptic” while talking about future plans. As for what Josef wants for the future of Michael’s Lamp Studio, Josef said, “I don’t have an answer for that.”
Michael’s Lamp Studio is located at 3101 W 50th St. and is open 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.