When Brian Kleinberg of Elements Distinctive Lighting & Home Furnishings in Carle Place, NY, accepted the ARTS Award for East/Atlantic Lighting Showroom at the 17th annual gala in January, he had a lot to say, and he said it effusively. But Kleinberg is unapologetic: “If there’s one word that runs through all of my employees, it’s passionate. About their job, about what we’re doing.”
This enthusiasm is a common bond among all three ARTS Award winners—Lenexa, KS’ Rensen House of Lights
and Seattle’s Alexander Lighting
also joined Kleinberg at the podium this year. But whether offering consumer-friendly, room-specific lighting tips online, as does Rensen, or making sure Elements’ warehouse employees thank customers when loading their cars, the real secret to success for each is offering customers an experience they just cannot find elsewhere.
With its massive 24-foot-high, landscaped slate atrium entrance and loft-style interior, Alexander Lighting has a definite edge. This is enhanced, Group Manager John Carver says, by one-of-a-kind galleries, functional office, kitchen and restroom “displays” and instant access to more than $2 million in decorative lighting; the Seattle showroom is linked and has access to all of the inventory at parent company North Coast Electric’s 30-plus locations across the West.
“Customers can make selections knowing the product is locally stocked and ready to be delivered anywhere in [our] service areas,” Carver says. “This is critical when dealing with tight lead times on fast-track projects. [Our] showroom is the customer’s showroom.”
Carver’s Design Specialists make sure of this by keeping up on weekly “lunch-n-learn” classes, as well as product-specific training and intensive electrical instruction from the National Assn. of Electrical Distributors (NAED).
Staff education is key at Elements, as well, where employees enroll in lighting design courses at the local college (taught by Kleinberg). Their focus is on simplifying customer communication. Elements’ 18 display windows house a combination of billboard-style banners emblazoned with one huge image and intricate settings complete with fireplaces, wainscoting and staircases. The in-store displays are composed of individual vignettes, each featuring one fixture, complementary furniture and accessories and a smattering of wall decor.
“The last thing I want is for someone to come in and walk out with a single purchase,” Kleinberg says. “People want to design and decorate their entire home in one turnkey store.”
Rensen House of Lights’ Tom Rensenhouse agrees. He also strives for a “total look” product mix of lighting and home furnishings. But for him, as for Kleinberg, it all comes back to the people.
“We have an incredible group—many of whom have been here since [we opened in] 1973,” Rensenhouse says. “Our knowledge of the lighting industry and its future trends, combined with a sincere desire to help our customers get the most lighting for their dollar, makes us [who we are].”