Lights dim on State Electric Supply

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Jim Leute
Tuesday, November 12, 2013

An anchor that lit up downtown Janesville for nearly 60 years will soon go dark.

Steiner Electric Supply Co., one of the largest independent, family owned electrical distributors in the country, has bought certain assets of State Electrical Supply, which has been doing business at 509 W. Milwaukee St. since 1955.

“The business served its purposes, and it's just time to sell it,” said Ellen Ramberg, the company's founder. “It's been a tremendous family business.”

During the transition, State will sell its building and liquidate its inventory.

Steiner, which has served southern Wisconsin for more than 30 years, will service State customers from its Rockford office while it evaluates a new location in Wisconsin.

Based in Elk Grove, Ill., Steiner also has Illinois locations in Crystal Lake, Gurnee, St. Charles, Tinley Park and Chicago, as well as an office in Hobart, Ind.

“We've done very well in the Janesville area out of our Rockford office,” said Rick Kerman, Steiner's president and chief operating officer. Kerman is the grandson of the company's founder, who started the company in 1916 to serve Chicago's growing electrical market.

Steiner primarily serves industrial customers, contractors and original equipment manufacturers.

It does not serve the residential market, which has traditionally been a significant part of State's business, Kerman said.

That means there's no need for a showroom in Janesville. Steiner will instead look for a Wisconsin warehouse and counter operation to serve customers in the Janesville, Madison and surrounding markets.

Dennis Ramberg, Ellen's son, said the family is happy its business has found a new home with Steiner.

Bob Heeman, who has been helping with the business, said the sale is a reflection of decades of hard work Ellen Ramberg put into the business.

“It really is her baby,” he said. “It's been her whole life.”

Heeman said Ramberg has been the go-to person who has helped generations decorate their homes with electrical fixtures.

“I don't know how many Parade homes she's done,” he said. “New homeowners would come in with their blueprints, and they didn't know how to read them.

“Ellen was the one who would help them pick everything out.”

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