Bill Shankle has always been handy around the house. The Oxford native by way of Fayetteville, Arkansas, used to pick a new car motor to build every summer. He would put it together, drive the car for “a little while” then either sell or give the car away. Shankle, an account auditor at North Mississippi Regional Center, also had training in the wiring of Ham radio and televisions.
“Any time something is broken in the house, I just bring it to him and say, ‘Here Honey, you fix it,'” his wife Edwina said with a laugh.
That is why it was no surprise to Shankle, when in 2009 neighbor Cissy Johnson saw Shankle fixing a power tool in the front yard and asked him if he could fix her lamp. That day the Lamp Man was born.
“I didn’t think anything much about it at the time,” he said. “I never in my wildest imagination believed it would come into something like this.”
Six years later and Shankle is now working on anywhere from three to 15 lamps at any given time in the office behind his Oxford home. Everything from rewires, repairs, restores and even creations happen in that office. A lamp in his living room was originally a vase belonging to his wife, and that’s not the only thing he’s made back there.
“I’ll do my best to find a part for a lamp,” he said. “But a lot of these old ones don’t have spare parts anywhere so I’ll weld, tool and dye, and fabricate parts to fit into the lamp. So long as I can hide them and not change the antique value of the piece.”
The typical turnaround for a lamp that comes across his desk is a week depending on the job. Prices range from $20 for a desk lamp to several hundred dollars for a high-end chandelier. In his six years in the business he has repaired lamps for the Barksdale House, Proud Larry’s, My Michelle’s, Designer Consignment, Sam Haskell and Mayor Pat Patterson among others. The one that stands out most to him is the chandelier he repaired for Cedar Oaks.
“They brought me this big washing machine box from New Orleans,” he recounted. “There were 300 pieces of crystal in this box that all had to be hardwired. It took me two-and-a-half months to finish but now it’s hanging in their piano room.”
While the timeframe on his retirement is unsure, Shankle does plan to take on more lamps at a time among other endeavors. He has a ’67 Chevrolet Chevelle he would like to restore, as well as two beloved dogs to care after: a 12-year-old Boston Terrier named Buddy and an 8-year-old English Bulldog named Lulu.
Shackle never envisioned the hobby becoming a profession, but the Lamp Man knows what he can attribute his success to.
“I do all of my advertising on word-of-mouth and handing out business cards,” he said. “One happy customer refers to the next and that’s how I’ve done it. Knock on wood, we haven’t had one unhappy customer.”
Michael Quirk is a HottyToddy.com staff reporter and can be reached at email@example.com.