“To be able to say that we’ve lasted 100 years is pretty incredible… It’s hard to believe that this thing kind of snuck up on us,” said University Electric President Mike Heintz.
Heintz was surrounded by family and employees on May 22 when he cut the ribbon to commemorate University Electric’s 100 years in business.
“The business faced many obstacles over the years,” said Heintz. “We survived the Great Depression, World War II, material shortages…Our move in 1993 was stressful and then came the worst recession in United States history. But we survived and thrived.”
University Electric was founded in 1919 by Heintz’s grandfather Jacob, who started the business and entered college at Santa Clara University in the same year.
Jacob immigrated to San Francisco from Germany in 1906 with plans to work at a city bakery. But the 1906 Earthquake had other plans and after serving overseas in World War I, Jacob settled in the Santa Clara to start high school and eventually college.
Jacob died in 1957 and the business was handed down to his son Bud. Today, at the age of 92, Bud still visits the store every day, but he has handed over the operation to his son, Mike. To this day, it is still very much a family business.
“A third of the people who work for us here is family members,” said Mike Heintz. “I’ve got nephews, sons, wife, sister-in-law, my father, brothers. It is truly a family business.”
And that’s something that a lot of the people in Santa Clara recognize and respond to.
“As long time business owners in the City of Santa Clara, the Heintz family has maintained their reputation as an honest and hardworking family who for many years has run their business with the utmost integrity,” said Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor, reading from a proclamation the City Council commended in University Electric’s honor.
The company treats the employees like family as well.
“I love seeing my employees who we brought in here who are young and then they get married and then they buy a house and have kids. I feel really good about that,” said Mike Heintz. “I think part of our success is the employees we have…They use this business as a career; it’s not a stepping stone.”
To continue to stay relevant, the company has evolved with the times. The small electric company that started in 1919 soon started selling electric frying pans and a few years later they were selling refrigerators and washing machines.
Televisions and radios served the company well in the mid-1900s, but when the market became too saturated, University Electric pivoted again, this time to luxury remodels.
In addition to the ribbon cutting, University Electric celebrated its 100 year anniversary by giving away $30,000 worth of merchandise to six lucky customers.