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Pendergast Family Keeping The Lights On

Pendergast Family Keeping The Lights On

Lamp Shades Plus, a longtime family-owned business specializing in the art of dressing up lamps and repairing those that had stopped working for one reason or another, is closing its doors after the untimely death of its owner, Jill Pendergast, in December of last year.  “She LOVED that store,” said daughter Rachel in a phone interview earlier this month.  “She’d be in there seven days a week.”  Rachel said the family decided to keep the store running, at least part-time, in honor of her mom.  They are open for business on Saturdays and Sundays only, from noon to 4 p.m.

The business was started by Jill Pendergast’s parents, Jim and Carol Tendler in 1979.  The store had the feel of an antique store – with lampshades of all sizes and shapes stacked from top to bottom.  “They had the largest collection of shades in New England,” Rachel said.  Since Jill took over the business, it lost its cluttered charm to a more stylish array of table lamps of all styles.

Repairs were done either on the counter – if Jill could take care of it herself — or were left for her husband, John, who would do the repairs on the weekends.  Jill started working there part-time while she raised three children — Jake, Dan and Rachel — until her parents’ retirement.

“She was an expert in her field,” Rachel said.  “It was such a ‘niche’ store.”  Interior designers from all over the nation would order from them, she said, including Martha Stewart and other celebrities.  One designer ordered lampshades for the Sydney Opera House. But the more the market shifted to other lighting technology, the more “niche” their particular knowhow became.

John Pendergast, who has been doing the repairs for his wife, will continue to accept repair jobs, his daughter said, and the phone number, (203) 795-6628, will continue to be active.  A physician’s assistant by trade, John Pendergast runs a small medical practice in Brookfield, and has been tinkering with lamps on the side for years, ever since his wife took over the business from her parents.  In fact, it was his father-in-law, Jim Tendler, who taught him the repair part of the business.  “He is very handy,” Rachel said of her father.

Jill Pendergast passed away unexpectedly at age 60 in December when she was admitted to Milford Hospital for an intestinal hernia.  After her passing, the family realized that she had gotten in arrears with her lease payments earlier in 2020, when she had to close the store for the Covid pandemic.  A family friend, Brittany Hart, opened a GoFundMe page for them.

“Jill fought tooth and nail to keep her family business afloat so that residents all over Connecticut and beyond would be able to have beautiful lamps and lampshades to light up their homes,” Brittany wrote.  But the lease is running out at the end of this month.  Rachel said they did get an extension to the end of April, which gives them some time to get things in order.

Many of her mom’s old customers have visited the store since they decided to re-open on weekends.  They came to share stories or simply to reach out.  Jill had a group of customers who would pick up lunch for her, Rachel said, because her mom often did not want to leave the store.  Now her brother Dan is the “chief lunch officer.”

“She had a lot of very loyal customers,” John said in a television interview on WFSB, Channel 3.  Some customers bring in lamps they bought 30 years ago from Rachel’s grandparents.

Keeping the store open has been therapeutic for the family, especially for John, but also for Rachel and Dan.  She has a full-time job in technology in Boston, and drives down to Orange on weekends.  Brother Dan, a resident of Milford, is helping out with the store as well.  The family has been so busy, they have yet to finalize the obituary.

“Keeping the store open is almost like keeping my mom alive,” Dan said in the television interview.

By Bettina Thiel – Orange Town News Correspondent

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