Despite pelting rain and 140-mph winds, Interiors & Extras, a design studio and specialty store in Metairie, LA, came out relatively unscathed by Hurricane Katrina. The store was sealed like a vault when Nancy Lassen went back to survey the aftermath of the storm on her business.
“The door was sealed so tightly from the humidity that we had to beat on it with a tire iron to break the seal and get into the store itself,” Lassen says. “There was no water damage that we could see, no broken windows and none of our product was lost.”
While Lassen is fortunate that her store escaped the destruction, she acknowledges that the process of getting back to business will be challenging. Despite a loss of revenue, Lassen has little hope of collecting insurance because there was no physical damage to the building.
Other Gulf Coast retailers, such as Shades of Light in New Orleans and Pine Grove Electrical Supply in Mandeville, LA, are in the same binding situation. And they are the lucky ones. Other showrooms, like New Orleans’ Lighting Inc., are completely lost, and many of their staff members are unreachable.
"The problem is so much greater than anyone can imagine,” says Richard Alan of Richard Alan & Assoc., a manufacturers’ rep agency that covers the affected area. “All aspects of the industry will be hurt whether their buildings are still standing or not.”
In the midst of such bleak circumstances, the lighting industry is reaching out to its own. Manufacturers, reps and retailers from across the country have offered their support, supplies and dollars to help relieve and rebuild businesses affected by the hurricane and its aftermath.
“There’s a cliché that the lighting industry is like one big family,” Alan says. “Well, it’s true, and it really comes through in situations like this.”
Alan has been approached by several manufacturers that want to help. “Bulbrite wants to donate bulbs, Emerson will offer free displays to showrooms, and others are offering jobs whether they need the help or not.”
Companies such as Quorum Intl. and Kichler have established relief funds, which reps will help distribute to lighting showrooms that need help rebuilding. In many cases, companies are matching net donations to their funds from employees and community members.
“It’s manufacturers helping showrooms, reps helping showrooms and showrooms helping showrooms get back on their feet,” says Ed Kolb, Sales Director at Quorum. “There’s a camaraderie in the lighting industry, and we’re just trying to do our part.”
In addition to reaching out to its own, the lighting industry is also using its resources to aid other victims of Hurricane Katrina. Here a just a few of the ongoing efforts:
- Murray Feiss is working with Tulane University’s Zeta Beta Theta fraternity to find work and housing for hurricane victims. They’ve also partnered with Habitat for Humanity to provide lighting and home decor during its rebuilding efforts.
- Hans Duus Blacksmith Inc. announced that up to 10 percent of the net proceeds from sales of its Candlelite Collection will go to aid victims.
- Lighting designer Dorian Webb designed a pair of earrings to benefit the cause. For each pair sold, $100 will go to the NAACP Disaster Relief Fund.
- Meyda Tiffany is collecting supplies for Feed the Children to aid its relief effort.
- Palecek employees are participating in a fund drive to benefit the American Red Cross. The company will match employee donations.
- Dallas Market Center’s Operation Re-Store offers a travel relief package to help retailers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama attend trade events at the Dallas Market Center.