Shane Hagen’s grandparents started the core family business – a wholesale electrical supply house in 1955 – that expanded to include appliances and lighting over the ensuing 10 years. When their marriage ended, Shane’s grandparents split the business, with his grandfather retaining the original business and his grandmother opening a lighting gallery in Longview. “She was really good at the lighting business and stayed actively involved until she retired,” Shane says.
The Hagen family owns several businesses and it was while Shane was selling nuts and bolts for one of them that his father approached him in 2007 to say he was considering closing the lighting store in Longview unless Shane wanted to help turn it around. “He said I could go in and try to make it work or we’ll just shut the doors,” he recalls. While the rest of the country was facing the Recession, Hagen’s Lighting wasn’t adversely affected — yet.
In 2008, he learned that a long-time lighting showroom Tyler Lighting Gallery in Tyler, Texas (roughly 40 miles away) was going out of business. At the time, the Tyler area wasn’t as widely developed as it is now and he figured it was ripe for greater growth.
Shane took the gamble, buying out Tyler Lighting Gallery’s inventory and taking over the lease. The change was not so smooth; he soon learned the store’s reputation had taken a hit over the years. “Everything [about the Tyler Lighting Gallery business] was wrong; the merchandise was wrong, the employees were wrong, and customers weren’t happy,” he admits.
Right around that time, the Recession caught up to the Longview area and business fell off. Plus the daily grind of operating two showrooms so far apart began to take a toll.
“It was 2009 when it got bad for us and we decided to close the Longview store. It was a rough year of moving everything over from Longview to Tyler,” he recalls. Despite the hardship and their young age (Shane and his wife, Trina, were in their mid to late 20s), they survived the Recession by handling most of the work themselves. “We were open six days a week, and each day after work, I’d load up all the deliveries in my cargo van and make the deliveries myself the next morning,” he states.
Shane never seriously considered giving up. Operating their own businesses is something members of the Hagen family have done for years and he knew from an early age that it was what he wanted for his future, too. “Being put to the fire right out of the gate and with the first few years being so rough, I knew I had to be the best in order to survive. I started reading all the lighting articles I could find so I could learn the decorative and technical aspects of lighting inside and out,” he comments. On the list of things to do was a trip to the Dallas Market, where one of the biggest accounts they opened with was Craftmade.
It took time to sell off the existing merchandise, make staff changes, and get the word out there that the lighting store location the community had gone to for years was now essentially completely different.
Impressed by the showroom’s transformation and performance during some incredibly tough economic times, his father approached him in 2011 with this thought: “He said, ‘I want you to buy the business and have your own building,’” Shane recounts. After searching for about one year, he purchased property along a well-traveled road.
The building, which is comprised of a 4,500-sq.-ft. showroom and 11,000-sq.-ft. warehouse, was finished in September 2013. The former Tyler Lighting Gallery did most of its business in retail with homeowners walking in to buy a few things for a room in their home. In order to grow, Shane knew he’d have to become a valued resource to builders — and there happened to be a fair amount of housing construction going on just south of Tyler.
“People come here to retire,” Trina notes. “We’ve had customers who’ve moved from California and even Colorado. One of the draws is the good medical community here.”
Shane began attending every local builder function he could find and would jot down the names he’d see on builder signs and call them up. “I just kept calling,” he says of his determination. “By the beginning of the next year, we weren’t being associated with the previous business anymore. People respected us and realized our showroom was completely different.”
Shane also became intrinsically involved with the Tyler builder association and regularly participates in the annual Parade of Homes, which features for 25+ houses on average. “These days we do a lot of builder business. Most every builder in the area wants their customers to come in here for their lighting,” he recounts. To keep up with demand, the showroom now has six full-time employees.
With the styles offered now on point, the right personnel in place, a good reputation among the community’s trade and consumers, and a growing regional market, Shane isn’t content to rest on his laurels.
“Recently we’ve started spending on our internet marketing and presence, paying attention to key words and making sure we show up in searches,” he says. Citing the adage, “You need to spend money to make money,” Shane says the investment in creating a user-friendly website is worth it. “We’ve only done [internet marketing] for a few months and we’ve already broken even,” he states. “Just recently we received an order on our website from Colorado for $4,000 worth of ceiling fans and a $1,000 order from Iowa for outdoor fixtures.”
Don’t ignore the mobile version of your showroom’s website, Shane advises his peers. “You have to do it all now, and that means having a good website on mobile devices, too. At Hagen’s, we’re trying to make the shopping experience better whether you’re online or in store.”
Like many showrooms, Hagen’s Lighting has its fair share of folks who find a lower price on the internet for the same fixture hanging in the store. “We always thank the customers who come in to price match because at least they’ve given us the opportunity to get the business instead of just buying it online,” he remarks.
Engendering loyalty with customers is important to Shane and is one reason they disclose the brand names. “In the past, we hid all that information [like everyone else] but we want our customers to know they can trust us and that we’re open and transparent,” he notes.
Visiting a brick-and-mortar store is a lesson Shane has also been teaching his young children. “When my 8-year-old daughter wanted a mermaid tail [costume] to wear in the pool, we researched the product online together, and then I told her, ‘Now let’s find it locally.’ My daughter said, ‘Why?’ And I explained the importance to her.”