FALMOUTH — Sitting in a small, partially de-constructed office on Route 1, Cheri Lozoraitis wiped tears from her eyes.
Her father, Roger Burleigh, did the same.
“You get to know people really well. We take this real personal,” Lozoraitis said. “That’s the hard part: the people.”
Lozoraitis has been running the family business, Burleigh Electric, since she took over for her father, Roger, in 2003. Before Roger, his parents, Alice and William (most people called him Bud) Burleigh ran the residential and small-commercial electrician business.
After 56 years, the small business that served thousands of clients in Falmouth, Yarmouth and Cumberland, closed its doors last week.
Roger Burleigh blames the lack of business and the economy.
“The economy is just tanked. There is no business,” he said.
Lozoraitis has her own theories.
“I had a business mentor who tried once to teach me to be ruthless,” she said. “But I just wasn’t raised that way.”
In fact, when one of Burleigh Electric’s employees had some expensive health care issues recently and needed health insurance, the family members took a pay cut, then no pay at all, to make sure he was covered.
Lozoraitis, who lives in Falmouth with her husband and two daughters, said she also thinks people’s attitudes have changed when it comes to repairing their homes.
“We’ve always used the highest quality materials. Now people want the cheapest,” she said. “People say ‘I went to Home Depot and they had this breaker for $7. Why is yours $23?'”
“People don’t always understand,” Roger added, “there’s a reason for the (electrical) code.”
In addition to residential electrical work the company did, Charlotte Mary, Lozoraitis’ aunt, restored antique electrical fixtures. She did work for the Longfellow House and the Victoria Mansion in Portland. She has also restored a stuffed alligator lamp, built a floor lamp out of an antique rifle and built chandeliers out of old wagon wheels.
“There’s always a demand for it,” Mary said. “There’s not a lot of people who do it.”
But for everyone in the Burleigh family, its the customers they’ll miss the most.
“Some of them give us their keys, or we go to their house when only their kids are home,” Lozoraitis said.
“Most of our customers are friends,” Roger Burleigh said.
Roger, who was a submarine sonar technician for the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, is retiring in his own way: Building a shop at his house and putting an addition on his house.
“I’ve worked every day since I was 13,” he said. “I don’t know how to stop.”
Lozoraitis is going back to school for a degree in speech language pathology. But she’ll miss the days of bringing her daughters to work with her, or even when she set up her desk in her grandmother, Alice’s, living room.
“It’s hard,” she said. “It’s hard when you take the work so personally.”
Burleigh Electric is turning its customers over to RW Googins Electric in North Yarmouth, run by two former Burleigh employees.
Family members and Burleigh Electric employees (from left) Roger Burleigh, Arthur Mary, Charlotte Mary and Cheri Lozoraitis outside the company’s office on Route 1 in Falmouth. The company closed its doors after 56 years last week.