In true pioneering spirit, the management team and employees of Hunter Lighting Group/Kenroy purchased Hunter Lighting Group from Hunter Fan Co. earlier this spring, forming one of the only employee-owned companies in the lighting industry. The entity will now operate under a new brand, Kenroy Home, offering an expanded range of lighting and home accessories, as well as Hunter-branded lighting under license from Hunter Fan.
Former Hunter executive, Bob Pape, now President and CEO of Kenroy Home, led the buyout effort.
“In my most recent Hunter responsibility as President of the Hunter Business Innovation Group, I learned from and formed friendships with [the inventors, technology partners and venture firms I worked with] and tried to incorporate the best practices and ideas into the shared vision of our management and employees,” Pape says. “The Kenroy organization is made up of some great folks who were the key to the company’s success during my prior 12-year tenure there, and we wanted them to share in the results of their labors and have an equity stake and a real say in the operation of the business.“
Despite its new moniker, the company itself will continue to operate in largely the same way. Kenroy Home will run its product development, sales, marketing, customer service and administrative infrastructure out of its current headquarters in Jacksonville, FL. Hunter Fan will also continue to provide logistics, warehouse and distribution services to Kenroy Home from its corporate distribution facility in Byhalia, MS.
“The basic business philosophy is mostly unchanged,” Pape says. “Our concentration will be in value-added retail channels, such as lighting showrooms, furniture stores, mail order and design/ hospitality, although we’ll continue to serve value-added mass customers with step-up goods of higher specs, quality and design than traditional low-end mass fare.”
What has changed is reaction time, speed to market and flexibility. With less corporate bureaucracy to wade through, Pape asserts that Kenroy Home will be better prepared and better able to react to customers and product opportunities than larger companies.
“A great example would be new product categories,” Pape says. “There are times, we feel, that some thorough but quick investigation and a limited customer-base launch may shortcut the process and yield results to our retail partners [more quickly.] You’ll see us doing this in categories complementary to our lighting core in our first year according to our current business plan.”
For many employees who preceded Hunter’s ownership in the late 1980s, the new Kenroy Home is like coming home. Hunter Fan Co. purchased the original Kenroy Intl. in 1989 and changed its name to Hunter Lighting Group in 1995.
“The customer feedback has been great,” Pape says. “They’ve always appreciated our message and people and love the idea of seeing the small entrepreneurial team of regular folks working with them to grow our business together. We think we’re a real feel-good story, as well as a very viable partner.”