The owners of this ARTS Award-winning showroom pride themselves on making their clients’ dreams come true.
When Mike and Wendi Deterville first opened up a 1,800-sq.-ft. store in the Los Angeles area in the early 1990s, their focus was on ceiling fans. However, after meeting other Tacony customers on an industry trip, they realized that almost all of the other dealers sold lighting. That revelation got the couple thinking about expansion.
They changed the name of their business to De Light Ville, highlighting their new product focus as well as a playful nod to their last name.
“We were always artistic in our presentation, but back then things weren’t as vignetted,” Wendi relates. Still, the Detervilles always had a knack for merchandising and creating upscale presentations.
“My wife and I have good taste and an eye for buying,” Mike adds. “You have to be able to read your customers. We have some classic styles that will be around for a long time, plus we have some fresh new designs.”
Their lighting showroom has been at its present Woodland Hills location for 16 of its 20 years with the motto: “Come With an Idea, Leave With a Vision.” Married for 30 years, Mike and Wendi make a formidable design team and have transformed their 5,000-sq.-ft. space on Ventura Boulevard into a destination for homeowners, interior designers, and custom builders seeking the latest and greatest in lighting. “We have a big following,” Mike explains. “We’ve done some clients’ homes two and three times [over the years, as they move].”
De Light Ville has also hosted interior design events to bolster awareness of their expertise and selection and advertised in regional design magazines such as California Home. In fact, one client came in after seeing an ad for the store in Los Angeles magazine that featured the Vertigo pendant by Corbett. In 2012’s challenging economic climate, the Detervilles had to reduce the amount of marketing and promotions they could do. Fortunately, having a long history with the design and residential community has kept the De Light Ville showroom top-of-mind.
Before the Recession hit nationwide, the economy started crumbling in California. “Even people with a lot of money started evaluating what they were spending on more closely,” Wendi recounts. “The Recession hit everyone in every walk of life.” Similarly, the economy has affected the Detervilles’ purchasing for the store. “In the past, if I liked something, I knew I could sell it,” she says. Now the buying process is more complicated.
One of the most popular styles that clients are seeking lately is what Wendi calls “Rustern” – a combination of Rustic and Modern. To keep their assortment fresh and unique, the Detervilles offer boutique products from small companies and independent artists they’ve discovered at exhibitions such as the Buyers’ Market of American Craft.
Whenever they attend the Dallas Lighting Market, they devote their last day there to searching for accessories. “We used to have designers come in and say they can’t accessories. As a result, we had consistent business from designers stopping in for accessories,” Wendi notes. “With the growth of the Internet, now we find they’ll buy direct from an accessories manufacturer,” she says. Mike adds, “The manufacturers need to find a way to support the bricks and mortar stores. If they want us to make an investment [through inventory] in their company, we should have an edge. If the retailer is supporting the manufacturer, then the manufacturer should support the retailer.”
It’s not just economic changes that have affected business, so has the Internet, computer programs, and the capability of smart phones. “We both have had to learn new computer skills so that we can make presentations to designers,” Mike comments. Designers will say, “Show me what you have for a closet,” and the Detervilles will provide a PDF of the options with a quote and a corresponding photo of each product.
“This is the way of the future,” Wendi says, referring to the PDF presentations that she and Mike create for designers and clients that might also include options in artwork, chairs, tables and, of course, lighting. “We have found that if you help customers and clients like this [with presentations], they’ll support you [with future business] in return,” Mike adds.
The store has a Web site that hints at the vast amount of products available without displaying each SKU. “We think of our Web site like a movie trailer, something that piques your interest to get you to come in and see us for more,” Mike remarks. The Web site also emphasizes the expertise of the staff, adding, “While we pride ourselves in having a beautiful and diverse showroom, we also know that sometimes there’s a special item that we don’t have. Our clients can be assured that we will go out of our way to find it.”
It is the Detervilles’ attention to detail and willingness to help clients work through each step in the design process – including free in-home consultations to assist the homeowner with determining scale, color, and style – that has kept the showroom on solid ground through some very difficult economic times.
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