A Peek Inside Restoration Lighting Gallery of Hartford, Connecticut
Restoration Lighting Gallery, housed in a former bank across the street from sister retailer Connecticut Lighting Center in Hartford, Ct., has blossomed into a destination store in its own right. At the helm is Mark Okun, who has an extensive background in furniture and lighting and has been with Connecticut Lighting for seven years.
What defines an antique or vintage item? “We consider something 50 years old or more to fall into that category,” Okun explains. Purchasing original merchandise from all over the world takes some know-how. “If you don’t know what you’re doing in the antiques sector, you can get burned,” he states. Nearly all of the lighting, accessories, and furniture inside Restoration Lighting Gallery are original and tagged with the respective time period. Finding merchandise that is truly authentic, and being able to pinpoint the era it hails from correctly, is a skill. And even if you have the expertise, you need a generous dose of patience to go along with it. “If you want to be in this business, you have to go into it whole-heartedly,”Okun says.
The process is not the same as purchasing at a trade show like one would for a lighting store.Instead, the items are culled from European importers, antiques dealers, and antique shows. “Our selection is all a la carte, you can’t just order more,” Okun says. At the same time, Restoration Lighting Gallery does not aim to be an antiques store, where items can sit around for years and not turn over quickly. “We want the products to move,” Okun remarks. “We are very competitively priced for the quality of product that we’re selling.” On some Saturdays, Okun estimates that there could be up to 60 transactions
Restoration Lighting Gallery operates as a separate business, with its own buying team and places advertising in regional magazines (some specifically targeting the antiques collector audience) and newspapers with a completely different message than Connecticut Lighting Centers. While it is common for one customer to visit both stores within the same timeframe — and it is no secret that both businesses are linked — there is a large group of repeat customers who shop at Restoration Lighting Gallery exclusively. “We have some people who come in just for the decorative accessories, furniture, and gift items,” Okun comments.
On the day that I visited Restoration Lighting Gallery, there was a hanging lantern being prepared for shipment to Hong Kong. How the heck did someone in Hong Kong know such a style was available in Connecticut? From the Web site, of course. Thanks to the Internet, Restoration Lighting Gallery has enjoyed customers seeking vintage items all over the globe.
In a unique twist, the store transformed the existing bank vault into a mini showroom, outfitted with furniture, lighting, and accessories. It’s just another aspect that makes the shopping experience at Restoration fun.
What all of the Connecticut Lighting Centers locations and Restoration Lighting Gallery have in common is the commitment to quality customer service. “Our salespeople here are all about customer satisfaction,” Okun says. In fact, one satisfied customer at Restoration Lighting Gallery is David Director, owner of Connecticut Lighting Centers. While perusing the finial display, he got the idea to adapt some unusual lamp finials as decorative hardware for his kitchen drawers and cabinets. Director says guests who visit his home almost always inquire where he found those drawer pulls!