Posted: August 8, 2019
As Maglio Electric’s cheerful phone voice and multi-tasking office whiz, Justine Maglio-Wardell has worked alongside her dad for over a decade. Together, the two have grown his family-owned company into a Hunterdon County mainstay.
“We’ve been in business since 1980, and we’ve seen the economy bring contractors into the workforce and force them out of business. All that time, we’ve sustained ourselves. Many of our clients have been with us since the company opened,” says Justine. “A huge portion of our customers come from family and friend referrals, and I think our longevity really speaks to our team’s skill and commitment to quality.”
A problem solver and “wearer of many hats, as my dad says,” Justine thinks the best part of her job is helping people worried about electrical issues. “There’s a lot of anxiety around electricity. We get calls from people who are nervous because something is smoking, getting hot, making a funny sound or just not working. Sometimes, they’re wondering, ‘Will my house burn down if something goes wrong?’ It’s so rewarding to be able to help. Our goal is to address their problems and their fears; to fix things and educate them in the process. At the end of the day, that’s a success story for them and us.”
According to Justine, her business acumen and customer service expertise have evolved over years of watching her dad work. “Dad gave me my sense of business, and I’m still learning from him. I know he hasn’t weathered years of market challenges by winging it,” says Justine. “Sure, he’s very knowledgeable about electricity, but he also has a strategy and a business plan. Because of him, I now look at projects from all angles before making decisions. Honestly, I’m still in awe of how he views things. He’s played his hand well. I’ve learned so much from him.”
Echoing Tony Maglio’s take on the trade industry employment crisis, Justine says one of the family’s biggest challenges is finding committed, qualified employees. A 2017 survey by Klein Tools, which produces tools for the electrical industry, reported that electricians are increasingly concerned about an industry skills gap. “Many skilled electricians cite physical demands and insufficient continuing education opportunities as reasons they have pursued other careers,” Klein Tools said.
Justine says the decline of high school vo-tech programs and the push for every student to attend college has also influenced Maglio Electric’s ability to find qualified technicians. “Kids these days don’t know the benefits of working in a trade job. Companies like ours are big fans of Mike Rowe and his mikeroweWORKS Foundation, which is out there trying to renew interest in the trades. In the meantime, Dad and I try to keep all the balls in the air. We’re not perfect, of course—but we try to anticipate our customers’ needs and keep things from slipping through the cracks. And day-to-day, he knows I have his back. When I get to work, I take a look at what’s pressing—and I try to manage whatever I can to free him up.”
“We used to have three people running the office. Now, depending on the day, I may help Dad get estimates out the door, respond to emails, manage accounts payable and receivable, check in materials or coordinate the team when customer emergencies arise. The service industry can be different from moment to moment, so we respond to whatever the moment throws at us. It’s my goal to lighten his load and keep customers happy.”
Justine’s husband, Steve Wardell, is a part-time electrician at Maglio Electric and provides a second set of hands for major projects. He plans to join Tony’s team full-time in 2020. “Steve balances me out. I can be a little intense,” Justine jokes. “He’s been my rock and steady in life.”
The Wardells’ son, Hunter, is attending his first year of college. “Hunter is like my old soul. He’s serious, sensitive and very caring of other people’s feelings. My mom taught me how to forgive, and Hunter taught me how to love. I think our kids teach us what love really feels like.”
Justine admits work can be stressful, especially with a skeleton crew. When she steps away from the office, she balances her business-minded side with creative endeavors. “I was very close to my mom, and that’s where I got my artistic nature. Mom was an internationally certified ceramic instructor. We grew up in an isolated place, so she encouraged creativity. Art and music are a huge part of my life, and she’s the inspiration for my artistic pursuits.”
Outside Maglio’s business hours, Tony Maglio’s daughter runs her own business: Deja Jewels and Gems. The company’s upcycled jewelry and one-of-a-kind statement pieces are inspired by memories Justine has of her mom. “I remember sitting with her as a girl and looking through her jewelry drawer. She’d share the history of her treasures, gifts from my dad, and things passed down from her grandparents. She shared all about the charms she had on two bracelets, which told the story of her life,” Justine remembers. “I created my business to honor people’s stories. I hope people see my upcycled creations and appreciate their vintage beauty—but also realize they were once a chapter in someone’s life.”
Aside from a way of preserving people’s legacies, upcycled jewelry and clothing is Justine’s way of embracing her own unique style and creating art that suits her clients’ personalities. “I’ve always hated seeing the same jewelry and clothes for sale from store to store. A few years ago, I got into making jewelry and shirts. I saw how people would get rid of their stuff at flea markets and estates sales—then go buy new things at the mall. I wanted to repurpose those old items to make something new. I use turquoise, old belt buckles, bolo ties and other components to make one-of-a-kind pieces you can’t find at the mall.”
Justine’s creative passions begin with jewelry making, but her repertoire also includes vegan and vegetarian cooking and classic rock concerts. A die-hard Lynyrd Skynyrd fan, Justine makes vintage bolo ties and other statement pieces that are worn on stage by Skynyrd guitarist, Rickey Medlocke.
The sole plant-eater in a family of mostly carnivores, Justine is a foodie and cook who enjoys a balance of raw and cooked vegan foods. There is, she says, one favorite food all her family members can agree on: baked goods. “To me, dessert is the most important part of a meal. It’s the last thing you have, and the most memorable. I’m a cake girl, myself.”
While Justine says home hacks and do-it-yourself projects are on her list of favorite things, she discourages Maglio Electric clients from tackling DIY electrical projects. “Safety really is our No. 1 focus—in everything we do. My dad always taught me to respect electricity and never think of it as something you just ‘play around’ at. If you’re not experienced in electrical work, find someone who is. Don’t take a gamble.”
As part of the Maglio family’s commitment to safety, the team publishes a variety of resources, blogs and home electrical tips for their customers and neighbors. “We work hard to keep our blogs and resources updated and to make them helpful for everyone in our community,” says Justine. To learn more about home maintenance and electrical inspections or electrical safety for families, aging adults and kids, visit Maglio Electric’s Resource Center.
“The electricians at Maglio Electric were professional and knowledgeable. They were prompt and did an amazing job solving all my electrical issues. I would highly recommend!” Jan H. Warren, NJ
“Maglio Electric is the best. Family run, supports the community. They are very professional and the quality is top-notch. Not only do I trust them with my house; they also take care of our firehouse.” Dan V. Asbury, NJ