New York is a big state, but the lighting universe can sometimes be small. For example, both companies are located in the Empire State: WAC Lighting is based in the Long Island town of Port Washington, and crystal manufacturer Schonbek Worldwide has long been headquartered in the Upstate New York city of Plattsburgh. Perhaps most importantly, WAC Lighting & Modern Forms principal Dirk Wald is well-versed in Schonbek’s 150-year history and work quality as is RJ LeFleur, currently a regional sales manager with WAC/Modern Forms, and Brian Bell. Unlike some private equity transactions that have occurred within the residential lighting industry, this new alliance is a balanced combination of two family-centric manufacturers —which will most certainly make fans of both brands happy.
According to WAC Lighting, the acquisition encompasses all operating assets related to the Schonbek™ brand from Swarovski Lighting, Ltd. which includes the domestic manufacturing plant. In fact, Wald plans to expand the Plattsburgh factory to allow for short runs and custom orders across the Modern Forms, dweLED, WAC Lighting, LIMITED, and AiSPiRE brands with some exceptions (i.e. plating). When asked if all of WAC’s final assembly will be consolidated from the facilities in Los Angeles, Georgia, and Long Island, Wald states that the other locations will remain in order to allow for faster shipping and delivery nationwide.
Having been well-acquainted with Schonbek’s manufacturing operations during his tenure there, Wald is especially excited to grow the Plattsburgh factory further. “There are finishes we can do [there] that can’t be done in China,” Wald notes, referring to many of the complex finishes that the crystal manufacturer has perfected that he can see being applied to the other brands of architectural, task, and decorative lighting and smart ceiling fans. There will be other synergies in the manufacturing process as well, most notably the opportunity for vertical integration.
Schonbek’s well-established distribution in Europe, Australia, and the Middle East will also bolster the WAC brands that do not yet have a large of a presence in those areas.
“If not for the time Dirk spent at Schonbek and then Swarovski, WAC would not have been approached to carry on the Schonbek tradition,” notes Shelley Wald about her partner and co-CEO of WAC, adding, “But veterans of the lighting industry will likely see the union of WAC and Schonbek as a natural progression.”
The acquisition is expected to be completed on June 30th. “We will be starting fresh on July 1st and plan a meaningful product introduction for the fall unlike anything you’ve seen before,” Wald hints. The product launch will be unveiled in New York City and Montreal this coming fall in the spirit of the apparel industry’s Fall Fashion Week. Just as Manhattan is the center of America’s fashion week, Wald says he considers Montreal to be the fashion city of Canada. Therefore the North American product release will be announced nearly simultaneously.
“My family and I were thrilled to hear this news,” says Andrew Schonbek. “Working with Dirk was a joy, as I witnessed first-hand his creative energy, passion for the product, impeccable design sense, and understanding and advocacy of customers. I predict that these unique talents will soon find expression in a creative renaissance at Schonbek that will once again position it as a leading, cutting-edge brand. There’s nobody I know of who’s better positioned than Dirk and WAC to carry forward the legacy that four generations of Schonbeks labored to build since 1870.”
The Schonbek Dallas Market Center showroom was closed during the January and March lighting shows and it is expected that it will remain closed for June Lightovation. This is another reason why the fall product reveal will be especially important as it will be the first chance customers will have to see the line since the change in ownership on July 1.