June 2004

Robert Mangano -
“The Bulb Man” Shines Bright

by Erin COLLINS

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Robert Mangano really knows how to light up a room. And not just with his bright personality. Mangano, a.k.a. The Bulb Man, Inc., has been selling light bulbs and energy saving lighting products to area businesses for 26 years.

The Bulb Man Inc. specializes in energy saving lighting products. They go out to a business and show them how to save electrical energy dollars through lighting. The newest service offered to customers is “recycling” their old fluorescent lamps. It is an environmental hazard to throw away fluorescent lamps; they must be disposed of properly and they are fully licensed to perform this service.

In 1978, Mangano got tired of the tedious nature of the restaurant business. For ten years, he co-owned a restaurant with his dad on East Delevan Ave. called Bob’s Galley. After a brief stint as an insurance man, Mangano decided he needed to get back to his entrepreneur roots.
   
“I reviewed everybody that was selling me a product at the restaurant. The one that stuck out the most was the light bulb man,” he said. “Now that’s a product every business can use.”

After some investigation, Mangano discovered Westinghouse Electric Corp. had no distributors in the Buffalo area. So came the birth of The Bulb Man, Inc. Mangano became a Westinghouse distributor, now owned by Phillips Lighting Company, Inc., selling all the different lighting products the company makes.

“I can still remember my first delivery,” recalls Mangano. “I had a little foreign car with a sunroof. The man wanted a case of eight-foot bulbs. They wouldn’t fit in the car, so I stuck them through the sunroof.”

Before finding the light at the end of the tunnel, Mangano grew up on the West side of Buffalo with his two sisters. He attended Hutchinson Central Technical High School and graduated from the University of Buffalo in 1962 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration.

Mangano recalls his mom’s delicious Italian cooking and his father’s lessons in the value of hard work. His father, a bricklayer by day, also owned a liquor store that he ran at night.

“Maybe that’s where I first got the feeling of wanting to be my own boss,” he said.
Mangano works very hard to make his business a success. He also manages to find time for pleasure. He is an avid golfer and sports fan. He has had season tickets for the Buffalo Bills since 1960 and supports all Buffalo sports teams. As a University of Buffalo alumnus, he is a strong supporter of their athletic program. He recently retired from officiating high school basketball after 23 years.
   
Mangano also has a part-time job as a landlord, owning two commercial properties in Buffalo and Williamsville.

There are pros and cons to owning your own business. Being your own boss is a big plus, according to Mangano. He lists the time consuming nature of having a business as a minus.

“You don’t get a lot of time to yourself if you’re going to have a successful business. You have to pay attention to it,” he said. “It keeps me very busy. There are highs and lows and I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum.”

One thing Mangano cares much more about than light bulbs is his family. His wife of 17 years, Ursula, recently retired from her position as corporate manager for purchasing at HSBC after 30+ years. He has two children from a previous marriage, Joseph, 39, and Renee, 41. His absolute favorite wintertime activity is watching his only grandson Peter, 13, play hockey.
   
The Bulb Man, Inc. located at 2207 Elmwood Ave. services businesses from Ohio to Syracuse to Pennsylvania as well as all of Western New York and Rochester. They are the primary supplier of light bulbs for Tops Friendly Markets. They also have contracts with the City of Buffalo, the Buffalo Board of Education and Erie County.

The economic downfall in Buffalo has affected Mangano’s business in some ways. He said the city now only buys what they need to replace bulbs because they can’t always afford to switch over to energy saving lighting.

“The city of Buffalo is very important to us,” he said. We just hope everything is going to work out.”

As a small business man, Mangano tries to give back to the city that has done so much for him. Although he finds it virtually impossible to please everybody, he carefully chooses several local organizations and events to sponsor each year. The list includes the Police Athletic League, the Buffalo Fire Department and Roswell Park Cancer Institute, among many other organizations over the years.

Robert Mangano has figured out the secret to a successful professional career and a happy family life- lighting up the lives of everyone he meets along the way.



Erin Collins is a staff associate with Living Prime Time.

 

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