Lighting legend and former president of Kichler Lighting Sam Minoff passed away at home on April 8; he was 98 years old. He was the beloved husband of the late Clare I. (nee Dryspel) and the loving father of Barry and Roy Minoff, Amy (Mike) Southard, and the late Martin Minoff. He was a devoted grandfather of David (Amanda) Minoff, Drew Minoff, Melissa (AJ Mark-fiance) Minoff, Ashley (Mike) London, and Kasey (Zachary Fox-fiance) Southard as well as the great-grandfather of Colbie London.
Sam grew up in the Bronx along with his brothers, the late Norman and Manny. After graduating from Stuyvesant High School in New York, he served in the Navy for three years as a machinist’s mate and was involved in several of the South Pacific’s biggest battles during World War II.
When he was honored by enLIGHTenment magazine in 2013 as a Legend in the industry, Sam recounted how he entered the lighting business. “When I got out of the Navy after WWII, I worked for a lighting company and always wanted to go into business for myself,” he recalled. “I met a widow, Mrs. Kichler, who was trying unsuccessfully to run her deceased husband’s business. I bought [Kichler Lighting] with $2,500 cash and a note for the balance.”
Sam was both a hard worker and a sharp businessman. After he acquired Kichler, its first catalog had 14 pages with 60 products, and there were two full-time employees — including Sam. When the company was sold in 2018, its main catalog numbered 350 pages and showcased roughly 4,500 products. At its peak, Kichler had grown to 1,100 employees in five countries. Sam continued to work at Kichler through his 80s and was a constant presence at Lightovation/Dallas Markets, where he would personally greet and welcome customers.
“What keeps me energized is the sense of accomplishment I get from starting new directions and new products and seeing them succeed,” he said in his enLIGHTenment magazine interview. “Knowing that I am supplying so many people with jobs and long-lasting careers in the lighting industry has also been very gratifying.”
Besides his business acumen, Sam is remembered by many in the industry for his warm smile and frequent jokes as well as his kindness, patience, and positive, generous spirit.
“The world has lost a gentle soul, who was loved and revered, admired and respected….a great businessman and a true gentleman…he will be missed by so many,” noted his son Barry on his Facebook page.
“They say you can’t pick who your Dad is, but in my case, I don’t think I ever could have been able to pick a better Dad. A great man has passed, rest in peace, Sam Minoff,” stated Sam’s son Roy on his Facebook page.
Long-time Kichler customer Polly Agers of The Lighting Corner in Michigan commented, “He was a wonderful, special person who lived such warm, loving life. He always made his customers feel like family.”
Sam’s industry peers in the industry were among the hundreds who expressed their condolences to Barry and Roy. Andrew Schonbek, former president of Schonbek, wrote, “Your father was a legendary figure in the lighting industry and a wonderful human being.”
Todd Phillips of Quoizel added, “He was an icon in the industry and a gentleman. I know your family will have so many wonderful memories to cherish.”
Kichler’s former long-time director/education & industry trends Jeff Dross observed, “Sam was genuinely one of the best humans in the lighting industry. He cared about people and once you found yourself within his orbit, you cared about him. While he was proud of the success he achieved, he always said he was much prouder of the fact that he was able to help so many people develop careers and raise families. Like me, there are scores of individuals who owe a huge debt of gratitude to Sam and the faith he placed in them. He was simply one of a kind. There are many sad people in the lighting industry today.”
Friends may contribute to any of Sam’s favorite causes: University Hospitals of Cleveland, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland, The Cleveland Museum of Art, or the Clare and Sam Minoff Endowment Fund c/o of Anshe Chesed-Fairmount Temple.