Vol. 22   No. 3
Fall 2016
  • MGE Talks Business
News Briefs

Ella's Deli: Where Whimsy and Energy Efficiency Meet

As winter heating season begins, natural gas outlook is promising

Ken Balkin, owner of Ella's Deli, could save more than $2300 per year in electricity costs thanks to an LED lighting upgrade.

Ask a kid what they like about Ella's Deli, an east-side dining tradition for nearly four decades, and the answer is either the carousel (a 1927 Parker) or the animatronics-laden interior. Both make Ella's a place where memories are made.

But delivering whimsy can run up the electric bill. So two of the restaurant's employees asked MGE for help.

"They wrote to MGE," said Ken Balkin, who owns Ella's Deli along with his wife, Judy. "And we heard back from two long-time Deli fans—and energy experts—with some great ideas."

Those fans were Kaia Smithback, Senior Account Manager at MGE, and Dena Weihert, CEA, an energy advisor with the Small Business Program at Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's statewide energy efficiency program.

"My first thought was 'This sounds like a great fit for Focus' Small Business program,'" said Smithback. "We've sent many business customer to Focus to help them get the assistance they need."

Focus on Energy's small business program

"Small business owners face two roadblocks when it comes to saving energy: knowing which changes have the best payback and paying for the changes," said Weihert. "We provide the data needed to make decisions plus the financial support to make improvements."

First step to improved energy efficiency: lighting

"After the energy assessment, Ken decided lighting was the best place to start," Smithback said.

Advanced Energy Solutions (AES) helped with the upgrade to light-emitting diode (LED) lighting. "AES brought in a variety of lights so that we could see how it would look. It was incredibly helpful," Balkin said. "We wanted to match the light quality we'd had with incandescents in the customer areas—which the LEDs did perfectly—and we wanted to brighten up the work areas. We're very happy with the results."

Balkin feels the investment has already begun to pay off. "I have no doubt we were able to save money on AC, since the LEDs don't throw off as much heat. That was extremely important given how hot the summer was."

Balkin appreciated how smoothly the project went. "From the first response to the actual installation, everything was handled very well. The installation team did a great job working around our employees and our customers—they were here before we opened and never interrupted our work."

Making energy efficiency possible for small businesses

Would Ella's Deli have made these lighting upgrades without the help of MGE and Focus on Energy? "The answer is definitely 'no,'" Balkin said. "As a small business it's very difficult to budget these types of upgrades—you have so many priorities to juggle. We are extremely appreciative of the support we received from this program and hope to be able to use other programs to fund future upgrades."

Estimated savings for Ella's Deli

  • Annual savings: $2,316
  • Estimated payback: 19 months