Showroom of the Year: Exceptional Community Involvement
First-time market attendee Lawrence Grown from Metro Lighting won the award for Exceptional Community Involvement because of his store’s commitment to green practices, including rooftop solar panels that supply 100 percent of its electricity.

Perhaps the only lighting showroom that generates enough solar power to run its entire operation, the über-green Metro Lighting considers all business decisions through a triple bottom line based on profits, people and the planet. 

Along with its own line of lighting fixtures made on the premises, Metro Lighting sells designs made by local artisans and craftspeople. Some have lighting experience, while others have a related skill, such as custom plumbing or blacksmithing. 

Metro’s owners Christa Rybczynski and Lawrence Grown have also forged important relationships with people, schools and businesses in the Berkeley, CA, community. While the intention of the company’s award-winning community work is purely to help and support, learning important business skills and gaining new customers along the way have been helpful side benefits. 

“We put the greatest value on the relationships we
form with people: our family and friends, as well as our business associates and customers. We treat everyone
with dignity and respect,” explains Grown. “We believe building community makes the world a smaller and more peaceful place.”

A commitment to Berkeley High School is near and dear to Metro Lighting’s owners; their son attends school there. Created in 2003 with the help of a million-dollar grant from the Gates Foundation, Berkeley High School divides students into six “small learning communities.” Recently, Grown helped start a committee at the school to help the institution establish a “brand image.” Grown says a lot of the information gleaned from volunteer professional marketers will help him brand his own business.

Grown says creating sets and props for school plays gives him and Rybczynski a creative outlet for skills they do not get to utilize daily at Metro. “Working within parent organizations and non-profit boards helps us to build skills that improve our performance as business owners and managers,” he adds.

“We feel good about ourselves and our business when we donate our time and resources to benefit causes we believe in,” Grown says. “That’s the main thing. We don’t expect more than that; it just brings us enjoyment. Having said that, working on collaborative projects allows us to be part of things bigger than Metro Lighting, and to form friendships unaffected by commerce.”

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