“We buy junk, restore it and sell treasures,” says Richard Henson, owner of Cody’s Lights & Repair in Phoebus. Sitting at an old table in his shop, Henson is surrounded by lamps and parts, floor to ceiling. Everything is organized and carefully arranged. Globes, ceiling fixtures and lamps are neatly on the shelves in line. Henson knows his inventory, including drawers of sockets and other lamp/fixture parts. “Nothing is thrown away,” he says.
Henson came into the lighting business later in life. He enlisted in the U.S. Army out of high school and had assignments in Vietnam, Korea and France. He served 20 years in helicopter maintenance. Basic training at Fort Eustis introduced him to the Virginia Peninsula. After the Army, he studied accounting and marketing at Thomas Nelson Community College and Christopher Newport University. For a time he was an apartment complex manager. When his daughter was decorating her new home, he helped her search for antique lamps.
Henson’s interest in antique lighting grew as he and his wife frequented garage sales. He gradually turned his interest into a business. He started at the Jefferson Flea Market with four stalls. He continued to scout yard sales and bought out some other businesses. Once a year he returns to his hometown, Cape Girardeau, Missouri. He visits family and turns it into a “buying trip.” “Along old Route 60, there is an ‘Antique Row.’ I have always found it more interesting to buy than to sell,” says Henson.
For a time, Henson specialized in Christmas decorations. He realized that the lamp business was more profitable. There was a demand for lamp parts but no one was restoring antique lighting. “I saw the need and moved in,” he says.
Cody’s Lighting is named for one of Henson’s grandsons. The shop specializes in vintage/antique and collectible restored lighting from the late 1800s through the 1960s. The business will buy sell, trade or restore anything in the lighting field. It also sells to other dealers. There are many unique items on display: a lamp with an elaborate heavily crocheted shade, a chandelier worth thousands and unique oil lamps.
In 2000, Henson bought the current building. He chose the Phoebus location because at the time there were a number of second-hand businesses there. “Unfortunately, most of them are now gone,” he says.
“I know where to find the deals,” says Henson. He buys out electricians and other businesses. Currently he is downsizing and preparing to sell his home in Denbigh. The garage is full of lamp parts. He is installing shelves on the second floor of his building to accommodate this additional inventory. Yes, there are as many parts upstairs as downstairs!
At 86, Henson has no plans to retire. “This is my retirement,” he says. The Hensons don’t work on Sunday and Monday. On those days, they enjoy being with family (four children and “countless” grandchildren and great grandchildren). They go to the Y and play cards. “We do everything together,” says Henson. “Glenda is my ‘help mate.’” He is pleased that one of his sons has shown an interest in continuing the business.
Glenda Henson is 84 and works daily with her husband. The couple met in the eighth grade and married as soon as she graduated from high school (67 years ago). When Henson was in the Army, they traveled throughout Europe, spending four years in France. “That was my favorite,” she says. She also liked Holland during the tulip season and hopes to return. Glenda greets
customers and marks merchandise.
“I enjoy the buying trips,” she says.
Nick McDowell “runs the business,” having known the Hensons for 30 years and worked for them for 20 years. He lives across the street from the store. Henson says, “Nick does it all,” including repair work. With a restaurant background, he often prepares lunch and is referred to as “chef.”
Erin Dickison has been with Cody’s for six months. She retired from the U.S. Navy with 20 years of service as a pharmacy technician. Born in Richmond, Indiana, she came to the Peninsula in 1997. Her introduction to Cody’s was as a customer. She brought in some lamps for service. Her job now is administrative, handling accounting, cataloging and computer work.
“I love the social interaction of the job,” she says.
Richard Henson invites visitors to come to the shop. “I prefer walk-in customers — not ‘on-line,’” he says.
TO THE POINT:
Cody’s Lights & Repair
Address: 201 E. Mellen St., Hampton VA 23663
Contact: Richard Henson, owner