Lamp Doctor in the News!
New York Daily News
Lamp Doc's Work Lights Up His Nabe
by Denis Hamill
If Aladdin reappears any time soon, my guess is he'll show up in the Lamp Doctor on Coney Island Ave. If he rubs an old lamp, the genie who appears will look a lot like Peter Romeo, a smiling, sad-eyed Brooklyn Native who earns his living making old lamps look and work like new. "I used to have four retail lighting stores all over Brooklyn," Romeo says about another lifetime, before a fuse blew on his first marriage. "It was a million dollar a year business, but with the five grand I had left when the lawyers were through I opened this store.
That was 27 years ago and it was during the oil crisis, and my new wife, Carol, and I had this theory that if the price of gas goes up, so does everything else, so people would have less disposable income and instead of buying new lamps they would restore old ones." Friends told him he was nuts, especially when he opened right next door to a full retail lighting store with 40 years in the neighborhood. "But the guy next door just sold new lamps, didn't sell lampshades, didn't service or restore lamps, so we got a lot of his overspill. That was our niche, and it's been our life ever since."
On any given day, a parade of people from all over the city arrive at the Lamp Doctor, cradling lamps wrapped in blankets and towels. "They bring them in like they were holding sick babies," Romeo says, smiling as he moves through his crowded shop, crystals clinking, workmen doing critical surgery at delicate work stations, reconfiguring chandeliers, rewiring circuitry that first came to light when Thomas Edison was the brightest bulb on Earth. Other workers strip layers of paint from brass fixtures rescued from old brownstones. "A lot of people get these old lamps in inheritances from their great-aunt Rose, marvelous old pieces that need rewiring," he says. "We know how to run a new wire into the arm of an old lamp, a process that others spend weeks trying and failing. We have a woman from Italy, a wedding-gown seamstress, who makes custom lampshades like you've never seen. We also give ballpark appraisals, but not for insurance purposes. But we tell people honestly if the lamp is worth the price and effort of restoration. We take no pride in restoring a piece of crap."
One of Romeo's favorite jobs was restoring the desk and floor lamps in the judges' chambers of the Foley Square courthouse. "I love a job where there's some civic or historical pride involved," he says. This is no empty spiel. For Romeo is also one of those guys who shines a light on his community out of a strict sense of civic duty. He doesn't make a dime doing it. He doesn't run for office. He just does it because he cares.
Five years ago, Romeo was driving down Emmons Ave. and saw that this great boulevard by the bay was starting to resemble a ghost town. As he passed the old Lundy's restaurant, he slammed on the brakes and got out to take a hard look. The great historic building, once the largest restaurant in the country, sat like a closed coffin, defaced with graffiti, the sidewalks glittering with broken glass, weeds snarling from between the building cracks, a monument to apathy, neglect, and failure. Romeo soon organized a mural campaign, inviting local artists to paint seascape murals in the panels of the old Spanish structure and enlisting volunteers to weed the grounds, sweep the sidewalk and organize anti-graffiti watchdog groups.
Once Lundy's shone like an old lamp made new, a genie appeared in the form of the TAM restaurant group, which reopened the famed eatery to restored glory and success. The new Lundy's became the catalyst for the rebirth of Emmons Ave and Sheepshead Bay. And, out of the limelight, Peter Romeo continued to work actively in the community, without a fee, earning his living in the Lamp Doctor. People like him save the city one neighborhood at a time. "I just like what I do," he says. "I get satisfaction from making something old look new again."
Lamp Doc Pulls Switch
by Denis Hamill
Let there be light. Let it shine on a squabble between two businesses that is leaving the public in the dark. That fight is between an established brick and mortar Brooklyn business called the Lamp Doctor, and something called the Lamp Doc, which exists only in the static-filled ether of area code 917.
Let's start with Peter Romeo, who has run the Lamp Doctor at 1944 Coney Island Ave. for 30 years, a permanent, um, fixture in the Brooklyn community. Romeo has rescued more lamps than an eye surgeon.
Romeo is also a vital community activist who in the early 1990's almost single-handedly turned a declining Emmons Ave. around when he mounted an anti-graffiti campaign and an odyssey to reopen the long shuttered Lundy's Restaurant. He's one of those guys who actually make a difference in our city, by taking a selfless interest in his community.
His day job for more than three decades has been as the Lamp Doctor, where he has created an excellent reputation for himself. The Lamp Doctor's slogan is, "The Doctor is in. Over 30 years experience."
"Then in July someone called the store," Peter says. "It was a woman," says Peter's wife Carol. "She says, 'You guys came here, hung my chandelier, but it's crooked and it doesn't work properly. You said you'd come fix it, but you didn't show up.' We tell her she must be confused, we didn't service her."
Then the woman asked if they were Lamp Doc and gave a 917 cell phone number. The Romeos assured the woman that they were not the Lamp Doc, but the Lamp Doctor, and they didn't operate in area code 917.
The Romeos checked the yellow pages and the Franklin Report, a directory of electronics businesses. There was no listing for Lamp Doc.
Then the Romeos received a call from Moss Lighting Co. in Hackensack, NJ, dunning them for an unpaid bill of $230.84 for electronic equipment. "The guy asked if we were Lamp Doc," Carol says, "I said no. They said that we were the only Lamp Doctor listed in Brooklyn and if we didn't pay the bill, they'd put us on their deadbeat list. "And then a customer brings us a flyer that has been distributed in the neighborhood for "The Lamp Doc - The Doctor is in, 30 years experience. Call 917 ...' " Peter says. "It was an identity theft of my business name, my slogan, and what took me 30 years to build. So I called him, I told him who I was, and asked him for his sales tax ID number. He said to me, 'F--- you this is America, I can do anything I want.' And hung up."
Romeo and Lamp Doc exchanged several heated calls, the cops got involved, but there were no arrests. Frustrated, Romeo went to local state Senator Carl Kruger for help. "Peter Romeo has been a great community activist and a fine businessman and he is basically being blindsided by this Lamp Doc guy who hides behind a cell number. All of which raises red flags.
"Using the cell phone number, I learned that Lamp Doc's real name is Roy Schneit and that he lives at 311 Arkansas Drive in Mill Basin, where his van advertising his business is in the driveway.
"So I contacted the Department of Consumer Affairs to see if he's licensed, and the Buildings Dept. to see if he has a certificate of occupancy to run a business from there. My first impression is that the name borders on infringement and misrepresentation, and I'm talking to lawyers to handle the case pro bono for the Romeos." After talking to Kruger, I called Schneit.
"There is nothing to talk about here," he said. "I'm Lamp Doc, he's Lamp Doctor. There's no infringement. I have nothing else to say." "The next day, Schneit called back and wanted to talk more. I asked if he didn't think the similarities of names confused the public. "I do get calls asking if I'm the Lamp Doctor and I tell them no, I'm the Lamp Doc," he said. "I even refer business I can't handle to the Lamp Doctor."
Sure you do, Roy -- just like I tell people to run out and buy the Post.
An hour later, he called back.
"Hi, this is Roy Schneit," he said. "Formerly the Lamp Doc. I talked to Sen. Kruger. I'm gonna change my name. We're gonna work this whole thing out."
The hand of government pulls a switch. Let there be light.