Among the older buildings on Peekskill’s waterfront is one that blends in with the rest of the other structures on North Water Street.
“Early Electrics” is discreetly inscribed on the front window. While the outside might not be eye-catching or memorable, what lies inside is certainly hard to forget.
Magnificent handcrafted lights, some more than a century old, hang from the ceiling, while antiques occupy nearly all corners of the two-story store and warehouse.
The shop, owned by Steve Erenberg and his son, Daniel, offers customers what very few in the world can — turn-of-the-20th-century industrial lighting and other rare finds.
To your left might be an early-1900s red velvet dentist chair. To your right a vintage lager promotional sign. Behind you is a bicycle that’s twice the size of a person. And in front of you is a collection of World War I and II gas masks meant to protect soldiers, children and even dogs. (The latter, Steve Erenberg says, is among his most prized collections.)
Built in 1881, the former print shop has a rustic feel, from its rugged brick exterior to its high ceilings, providing an appropriate home for Early Electrics’ retro inventory.
As evinced by an A-list clientele that includes such celebrities as David Copperfield and John Legend (a recent buyer of a set of lamps), Early Electrics has a track record for niche, often hard-to-find products.
“Seventy-five percent of our business goes to decorators,” Steve Erenberg says, his fingers covered in dust from a morning’s worth of work. “We’re their secret weapon.”
He and his son sell antiques and design and restore lighting, which can often be time-consuming for them but especially rewarding for decorators hoping to avoid cookie-cutter models from a chain store. All inventory is stocked in Peekskill, and many items sell for $10,000 or more.
Even while working as an executive in the Manhattan advertising industry — from which he retired three years ago — Erenberg was an avid antique buyer and seller.
Father and son have been around the world to buy their products, including countries in Europe and Asia. During one week in May, the store was closed so the pair could go on a business trip to the Brimfield Antique Show in Massachusetts.
Occupying the workshop on a recent Monday morning was an anatomical horse model Erenberg recently bought from a Parisian owner.
He thinks he can eventually sell it for $75,000.
One of the shop’s biggest fans — and customers — is chef and restaurant owner Louie Lanza, who is at the forefront of the Peekskill revitalization effort. Lanza, an owner of the Hudson Room on South Division Street, had Early Electrics design the restaurant’s sushi bar. His soon-to-be opened Eagle Saloon will feature lights by Early Electrics, while Taco Dive Bar, another Peekskill restaurant that will be opening soon, will have antique benches and custom tequila bottle lights from the company.
Lanza says working with Steve Erenberg has been a delight since the day he first walked into Early Electrics.
“He’s creative and he’s a great guy,” Lanza says. “He’s been in the business a long time. I consider him a big asset to Peekskill.”
Right now, it’s just Steve and Daniel manning the shop. It means long hours, often six days a week.
Eventually, Steve says, they hope to hire a bookkeeper or two to lighten the load and let them focus on the designs. For now, they are consumed with acquiring the rarest, but also most useful products, which means traveling to find them.
Erenberg says he didn’t buy the building for its location. A resident of Croton-on-Hudson since he was 28, he says Peekskill was simply convenient for him.
Plus, most of his business is done online. Walk-ins are rare and account for just a fraction of his total sales.
Those who do come in the store often treat it as a museum to look at but not buy in, he says. He takes it as a nod to the impressive collection the shop boasts, but he also needs to run a business.
“We don’t have a lot of customers,” Erenberg says. “But we have ones that keep coming back with orders. There’s always repeat customers.”
For more, visit earlyelectrics.com.