For the past 44 years, members of the Adkins family have enjoyed hearing, “I knew I could find it here!” from customers.
Co-founded by the late James Adkins, who passed away in June, Adkins Lighting Center got off to a modest start in 1969 as a small lighting store that once occupied a garage in the Richmond, Va. area. As the owner of an electrical contracting business for 27 years, James knew a lot about lighting – and the time was right to expand his expertise into the decorative lighting market. Business grew quickly enough that he moved into a larger space in Richmond and added a store in Petersburg.
Like many in the industry, Debbie (Adkins) Edwards grew up in her parents’ lighting business, working in the showroom after school as a teenager and in the office during summer breaks from Virginia Tech.
“Dad’s legacy was to offer quality product and quality service at a fair price,” Debbie says. “He had character and integrity in all areas of his life. He was a very honorable man who taught me to treat people with respect.”
In 1983, she met Mark Edwards at church and the two married. Later on he decided to make a career change and began working in the lighting showroom. “[James] took me under his wing and was a tremendous mentor,” Mark reveals. “He let me experiment [with different ways of doing things] and his rapport with everyone was incredible. He had respect for reps and told me, ‘Don’t ask for the moon’ and ‘Be fair in your negotiations.’”
When Debbie’s parents retired from the business in 1997, they passed the reins to Debbie and Mark, who took on the family business and kept the Richmond location. “We’ve transitioned well,” she notes. “My parents were very pleased that we’ve made it our own and that we’ve been able to carry on the business during such hard times. They’ve been very supportive and we’ve tried to represent their name well.”
The showroom is handsomely appointed with table lamps, lighting fixtures, wall art, decorative accessories, accent furniture, and permanent florals. “We get a lot of our merchandising ideas from attending markets and from our involvement in Lighting One, plus listening to [advice from] Denis Caldora,” Mark states.
“We’re predominantly Traditional [in style], because the surrounding area is,” Debbie comments, admitting, “Mark leans toward more Contemporary styling than I do. I’ve found that the people who like Contemporary are very particular about it.”
For the most part, the showroom is replete with cast brass lighting fixtures and crystal. “We’re one of the few who carry brass Williamsburgs,” she says. “We do a strong business in lamp finials, especially crystal pineapples and brass filigree.”
Tiffany-style lighting and window panels are also very popular at Adkins Lighting Center, which offers a sizable gallery devoted to the medium. In addition, Mirrors – especially those that are large in scale – are in demand.
“We’ve always had good walk-in traffic,” Debbie remarks. A lot has changed in the world since Adkins Lighting Center opened its doors, such as Internet price shopping, competition from home centers, the slowdown in new construction, and the advent of new light sources like LED.
“We’re figuring out how to swim in this new market; however, manufacturers have helped out by offering free freight and quick-ship items,” Mark states.
Adkins Lighting Center has always prided itself on having a wide selection. “We’ve had many people say, ‘If you can’t find it here, you can’t find it anywhere,” Debbie adds. “In addition, I spend a lot of time looking for products that a customer has come in and described to me. I’ll comb every manufacturer Web site for them. In return, there’s been a lot of loyalty with our customers.”
The lighting showroom is open Monday through Friday (9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.) and the first and third Saturday of the month (9 a.m.-1 p.m.).
Please see some of our other Residential Lighting Showroom Profiles.