Electric Fish opens Tanger Outlets store, pandemic allows owner John Bonanno to get creative

Getting laid off due to COVID-19 was “kind of the best thing ever” for John Bonanno.

Pre-pandemic, Bonanno was already working remotely from his Milton home.

“I still had a boss and a production quota,” he said. “It wasn’t the most fun-loving, stress-free environment.”

Bonanno is passionate about IQ lights, which are lamps made of interlocking pieces that can be configured to make many different things, from shapes to animals to spaceships.

He opened Electric Fish in Rehoboth Beach’s Penny Lane three years ago. He kept his 9-to-5 job, but business at Electric Fish grew, in part thanks to popular kids’ classes in which participants get to make and take home their own light.

Electric Fish owner John Bonanno and one of his IQ light creations. IQ light shades are made of interlocking pieces that can be configured to make many different things, like this pig.

When COVID-19 made its way to the U.S., Bonanno was furloughed and, eventually, laid off. 

“It actually worked out where I could pick up hours at Electric Fish for employees who couldn’t work due to COVID,” he said.

The free time allowed Bonanno to exercise his creativity and experiment.

“People would come in and be like, ‘Hey, can you make a Sonic (the Hedgehog]?’ and I’d be like, ‘No way, that’s impossible.’ But now I have the time,” he said. “I made the Sonic light. It’s like my Mona Lisa. Now, two kids are the only ones in the world that have one.”

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One day, Tanger Outlets’ general manager came into the Penny Lane store and was impressed. She offered Bonanno a spot at the outlets.

“It was a great opportunity,” he said.

And he took it. Electric Fish now has a pop-up store at Tanger Outlets Seaside, next to Levi’s, through the new year. The store offers a selection of pre-made lights, but Bonanno is happy to take requests.

See more at electricfishlights.com.

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