Allison Shaw's eyes scanned this way, then that, her chin tilted upward, as she browsed the merchandise at Hobrecht Lighting on Auburn Boulevard in Sacramento.
Hundreds of fixtures, including chandeliers, Tiffany reproductions and modern pendants, fill the 18,000-square-foot showroom.
"I am in awe. It's beautiful. I'd gone to Home Depot and Lowe's, which is all you're kind-of programmed to think about," Shaw said.
She hadn't found the right fixture at either place, and a friend suggested she try one of the home stores on Auburn Boulevard. Shaw put "Auburn Boulevard lighting" into her GPS, and up came Hobrecht Lighting. She bought three fixtures.
Eric Paul, who runs the 103-year-old company, smiles at the small victory. He's had to revise his business strategy as big box stores and online retailers started carrying merchandise that his store once had exclusive rights to sell.
Increasingly, Paul said, he is striving to create a lighting experience instead of just a lighting showroom.
"That's really where the move needs to be," he said. "If you can see the product online, maybe what we need to do is show you what that product can do."
Paul's parents, Stan and Carolyn Paul, bought Hobrecht's from its original owner, Jack Hobrecht, back in the 1970s, Eric Paul said. The company also does custom work on lights drilling, cutting and soldering fixtures to fit in a home. Don't like the color of a fixture's stems or arms? Employee Bill Lander will change that for you, adding highlights to give the new color depth.
Hobrecht's staff consults with custom home builders to ensure that wiring and other details will work, and because there are different types of lighting, they advise homeowners on how to keep color temperatures from competing.
Whatever lights you choose, your electricity bill won't come close to what the Pauls pay at Hobrecht's: roughly $3,000 a month.
Teamwork pays at CSUS
Ten years ago, when Sacramento State turned out just eight graduates with construction management degrees, industry leaders considered donating to programs at other California universities.
They created a committee and visited other colleges, but they returned with the belief that the Sacramento State program was more demanding and rigorous than any others they had seen.
So they began working with Mikael Anderson, the leader of the construction management program (and no relation to this columnist). Local companies committed tens of thousands of dollars annually to increase the number of graduates with construction management degrees, to enhance the student experience and to support faculty. The investment is paying off.
"This last year, we had 97 percent job placement," Anderson said. "We had 23 graduates last May. Coming behind them, we have about 35 students and coming behind those guys, about 45."
Sacramento State's program is garnering recognition.
Every year in February, thousands of students from across the United States head to John Ascuaga's Nugget hotel in Sparks for a contest to show how well they've learned their lessons.
"When the students graduate from our programs, they're going to go to work for construction companies," Anderson said, "and they'll have to look at a set of drawings and they'll estimate how much it's going to cost to build something.
"They're going to put together a bid package, and they're going to hand it to an owner, and they're going to hope they get selected. What this competition is, it's all that coming together at once. Industry veterans give them real-life construction problems."
Last year, Anderson took seven teams and got six awards in several categories, he said, and that's been typical of the Sacramento State performance over the past several years.
Anderson lauds the 30 or so industry veterans who spend time coaching the students.
This year, Anderson, industry leaders and students are celebrating another victory. Construction management, a program under civil engineering for 40 years, is now a separate department.