Brent Smith and Victor Skalak founded Southern Lighting Gallery, Inc. in 1999 because they were convinced that the lighting and decorative accessories market needed a fresh alternative in Augusta. Our original building with only 3,600 square feet of display space and a small warehouse was enough to let us break into the market long dominated by the much larger Augusta Lighting. In the fall of 2003, Southern Lighting Gallery, Inc., under the sole ownership of Brent Smith, had the opportunity to acquire Augusta Lighting and operations were combined at Augusta Lighting’s location with approximately 16,000 square feet of showroom space and 13,000 square feet of warehouse.
The acquisition of Augusta Lighting allowed us to begin implementing our long-standing vision of displaying lighting and accessories in an environment where customers can see what they will look like in their own homes. In 2006, less than three years after acquiring Augusta Lighting, our showroom underwent extensive renovations: Vignettes were added to display lighting, casual furniture, and decorative accessories in lifestyle settings using different colors and textures; carpets and floors were replaced throughout the showroom; and all walls were repainted. We keep our showroom looking fresh by regularly changing and rotating the merchandise displayed in our vignettes and throughout the showroom.
The renovation of 2006 also saw the construction of our state-of-the-art lighting lab with a completely furnished family room, dining room, and kitchen. These rooms allow us to demonstrate how various recessed lights, surface fixtures, and chandeliers work together and how to layer lighting for just the right effect. The kitchen lighting lab has been an especially busy place since we installed LED tape lighting under the cabinets, over the cabinets, inside the glass-front cabinets, and in the toe-kick. All of these are controlled separately allowing our customers to mix and match the various layers of light and decide which effects are the best ones for them. We also have fluorescent and xenon under cabinet lighting, puck in-cabinet lighting, and rope toe-kick lighting, all switched separately for our more traditional customers to see in operation in our kitchen lighting lab .
A well-merchandised store with wonderful displays and lighting labs is great, but without talented well-trained people to answer customer’s questions it won’t succeed. All of our sales associates receive ongoing ALA (American Lighting Association) training and training by various lighting vendors and sales reps. Most of our sales associates have over five years experience, many over ten, and our most senior employee, who doesn’t get to spend much time in the showroom anymore but is always available for consultation, has over 29 years of lighting experience. Having these experienced and confident sales associates allows our customers to rest easy knowing that they have made the right lighting purchase decisions.
Our reputation as an industry leader in lighting showroom operations led the owner of Charleston Lighting and Interiors in Charleston, SC to approach us about the possibility of acquiring their business. In June of 2012 the acquisition was completed and now Southern Lighting Gallery operates lighting showrooms in two prominent markets: Augusta, GA and Charleston, SC.