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Chuck Campagna

The light brigade

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Chuck Campagna, president and ceo of Amerlux Lighting Solutions (Fairfield, N.J.), spent five years as a linebacker and nose tackle in the NFL and Canadian Football League. There, he learned that he had a head not only for stopping the ball carrier, but also for business.

While staying in shape to play for the Toronto Argo-nauts, Hamilton Tiger-Cats and New England Patriots, from 1977 to 1981, Campagna opened three health clubs in the Albany, N.Y., area, where he had grown up and lived.

“I had to work out continuously for football so I thought that I might as well make money while doing it,” says Campagna.

Okay, a knack for running health clubs. But how did that lead to a career in lighting?

“I was speaking at a Special Olympics banquet, when I was approached by two gentlemen from General Electric who wanted to know if I wanted to work for 'The General,' ” he says. “So, I went from putting people's lights out to turning them on!”

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Campagna spent four years with GE before moving to Genlyte's Lightolier division in 1988 as vp, national accounts. Ten years later, he joined Amerlux Lighting Solutions, where Campagna has helped the company grow from mainly serving the supermarket industry to including retail, commercial and specialty lighting. In February, Amerlux was named Lighting Supplier of the Year by Chain Store Age magazine.

Amerlux is a Diamond Sponsor at VM+SD's International Retail Design Conference, Sept. 15-17 in Miami Beach. For more conference information, visit www.irdconline.com.

How did you earn your first dollar?

Like most boys who grew up in the 60s, I started out by mowing lawns and shoveling driveways. When I got a little older, I was a laborer for my dad's masonry contracting firm.

Name one lesson from that job that you still carry with you today.

If you are going to do anything, do it to the very best of your ability. Don't cut corners or try to take the easy way out.

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In 10 words, explain how playing football is similar to lighting a retail environment?

Both professions have a team working toward a common goal.

How is it different?

In football, decisions must be made in fractions of seconds.

What retail project has given you the most satisfaction?

The Galyans stores. When you can take a 100,000-square-foot space, use one lamp type throughout and create various beams patterns that give you contrast, flow, impact and great visual merchandising while lowering the client's operating cost….THAT is satisfying!

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What three words describe you best?

Passionate, competitive, driven.

Describe your reaction to last year's Super Bowl.

While I really don't follow football that much (really!), to see one of my old teams win the Super Bowl was very satisfying. I think the Patriots really define the word “team.”

What is one hobby you have that would surprise most people?

I am getting into gardening. There is something very peaceful and introspective in working with the soil.

Place you'd most like to visit?

I would love to visit the island of Sicily and the surrounding Aeolian Islands.

What are your biggest self-indulgences?

Food, wine and cars.

What's the best advice you've ever received?

My father said to me a long time ago, “There is nothing tougher than true gentleness and nothing more gentle than true toughness.” I think of that advice every day.

When I retire, I will….

Look out at the ocean and wonder what the rest of the world is doing.

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