Showroom of the Year: Most Significant Accomplishment
 
David Nestor of Urban Lights, Denver, takes home the Most Significant Accomplishment Award. The former owner returned to purchase the out-of-business store and re-opened it in under two months.

Winning a Showroom of the Year Award is a thrill — just ask any retailer who has received the residential lighting industry’s highest honor. But for David Nestor, being recognized for Most Significant Accomplishment was especially meaningful. Last year, after the lighting showroom business he sold failed after four years, he and his team returned to remodel, restock and re-open the 20,000-square-foot showroom in just eight weeks.

“Second chances are a wonderful thing. Winning the award felt like coming home again,” Nestor says. “As I stood on stage in front of my friends, my reps and all the manufacturers who helped us, I was euphoric.”

Urban Lights went from “ashes to terrific,” Nestor says, thanks to many talented people. “After we won, all I could think about was, how can we all celebrate this together?” he recalls. “On Monday when I got back to Denver, we had a humble celebration in the store with loads of bagels. It was really fun.”

Emphasizing the fun in life comes naturally to Nestor and the Urban Lights team; the showroom is exciting, inviting and offers an upbeat shopping experience.

In the old days, the business catered to tract home builders; now the cash-and-carry trade accounts for nearly 100 percent of sales. “We find that people can’t afford a new house, but they do want a better house. We’re blown away by all the potential retail business out there,” Nestor says. “Making this 180-degree shift in our business is one of the benefits of starting up all over again.”

Urban Lights uses a mix of print, broadcast and digital media to reach new and existing retail customers. Local media outlets offer Internet coupons on their own websites and Nestor said they work well for Urban Lights. Simple things, like stationing a sign-waving employee on the busy road in front of the store, cost little but bring big dividends.

Target marketing is another tactic that brings in new business. Once a month, the showroom sponsors an after-hours event for a specific customer group. Recently, Nestor found an organization that can compile pinpointed mailing lists that help him fine-tune these efforts. This summer, Urban Lights began a campaign focusing on loft owners with a vendor-supported, 10,000-postcard mailing emphasizing rail systems. 

Doing things differently is an Urban Lights trademark. Rather than having manufacturer galleries, Nestor has created “stores within a store,” with names like Jazzy Classics and Mountain Vogue that evoke a lifestyle look. 

Since opening, Urban Lights has sold furnishings provided by a local furniture studio to enhance the overall presentation. And a new symbiotic partnership kicked off in August. Operating in free space provided by Urban Lights inside the showroom, a local electrical contractor will design and install lighting control systems, and sell and install in-home electric vehicle chargers. Trading free space for free labor addresses a growing customer request for technology, Nestor says. 

Creative thinking and marketing have taken Urban Lights a long way since that now-famous eight-week super scramble in 2010. 

“Discovering the retail marketplace after years of selling builders has been an incredible experience,” Nestor says. “We are like kids in a candy store; we want to try everything!”