An Artisan chandelier brightened our condominium throughout the early 1990s. My spouse liked the shop, and its showpieces finally grew on me.
Artisan remains to be round, however it has moved to a cluttered little store in a secluded nook of a Fairfax County industrial park the place the proprietor has tailored its marketing strategy to the digital age. It has advanced out of necessity from a mom-and-pop storefront on a first-name foundation with purchasers into a distinct segment retailer whose viewers stretches from Taiwan to Italy.
Vintage lighting doesn’t imply vintage considering.
“A variety of lighting shops have closed, however not me,” stated proprietor Cyrus Manafzadeh, 72, who has been promoting and repairing lighting since Ronald Reagan was president. “I purchase and promote lots on the Web now, however I nonetheless have folks that bought from me within the 1980s.”
Manafzadeh’s enterprise has endured two massive hits over the previous dozen years. First got here a gross sales decline due to the 2008 monetary disaster and ensuing recession. Then got here the novel coronavirus pandemic that flattened gross sales for the previous three months. Virus-related restrictions almost stranded him on a shopping for journey to Europe, the place he was trying to find the artwork deco antiques which are his bread and butter.
“We promote a variety of lighting from 1880s to 1970s, however principally we attempt to have uncommon and attention-grabbing lighting,” Manafzadeh stated.
These items aren’t low cost. A nickel-and-glass artwork deco chandelier made in France throughout the 1920s sells for $5,500. A silver-and-crystal chandelier from 1880s France that was transformed from fuel to electrical sells for almost $10,000.
The common piece prices about $2,000 retail, on which Manafzadeh nets about 10 % for himself. He negotiates on value. “It’s a must to if you find yourself promoting antiques,” he stated.
The enterprise has modified because the 1980s, when he served decorators and householders throughout the Washington market home-buying increase. Again then he met clients face-to-face and went on lengthy gross sales journeys to search out stock.
Not surprisingly, the largest improvement has been the Web, with its simple picture entry that expanded his potential market.
Artisan circulates about 400 items — about half of his stock — on the web site at anybody time. He provides 10 new gadgets per week when he updates the location, and provides 20 throughout the vacation season.
“Greater than 50 % of our gross sales is from our web site,” he stated. “Our purchasers go browsing, the place they are going to browse earlier than coming to go to us.”
The Web additionally permits him to spend much less time scouring Mid-Atlantic flea markets and the south of France for treasures and spend extra time along with his spouse at their Bethesda residence. He nonetheless takes twice-yearly journeys to France, Spain, Italy and Belgium to keep up contacts he has made through the years.
“Within the outdated days, I went for 5 to 6 weeks, driving my truck 14 hours a day and stopping in each single metropolis between Barcelona, Paris and the south of France,” he stated. “Now I am going for 3 weeks.”
He’s on a first-name foundation with many shoppers, with whom he has an “I-will-hold-it-for-you” method.
“I’m from old fashioned,” Manafzadeh stated. “Folks name up, and choose up issues, take it residence and in the event that they don’t prefer it, they bring about it again. That’s why I lasted for 40-some years.”
He closed the Cleveland Park store in March 2018 after a four-decade run when his enterprise accomplice, who owned 20 %, needed to retire. Manafzadeh moved Artisan to the present location, a cross between a lighting museum and an industrial restore store.
His income is about one-third of the $1.5 million-a-year halcyon days from the ’80s via the early 2000s, when he had a mid-six-figure earnings.
The resourceful businessman nonetheless employs two full-timers who deal with repairs and loves going to his store, the place he manages telephone and e mail inquiries and assists the intrepid clients who’re in a position to monitor him down. (It isn’t simple discovering the place.)
“Somebody who used to return to my outdated store was on the lookout for me to restore one thing and known as me,” Manafzadeh stated. “Then she went on-line to a Cleveland Park web site after we completed the job and stated that I used to be nonetheless in enterprise in Fairfax. Immediately I obtained 10 calls.”
He’s lowering the value of a lot of his gadgets to assist reboot the enterprise after the stay-at-home orders.
“I hoped to have a 20 to 30 % improve in gross sales this yr,” he stated. “The coronavirus stopped every part.”
Manafzadeh has identified lighting since rising up in Iran, the place his household manufactured lights.
“I made my first desk lamp after I was 13 years outdated from carved wooden and plastic,” he stated. He arrived in america in January 1973 to check finance and advertising and marketing at American College. He married throughout school and determined to remain in Washington.
After a few retail jobs, he scraped collectively $15,000 — helped by the sale of a rug and a pair of cars (Chevrolet Impala and Nissan 240Z) — and opened his first lighting retailer in entrance of the Metro on Connecticut.
Manafzadeh knew he couldn’t compete with the massive lighting shops on gross sales and scale, so he opted for a distinct segment enterprise in high-end lighting focused to upscale Washingtonians.
“The easiest way to go was older lighting that I might repair and make one among a form,” he stated.
The enterprise flourished throughout the 1980s after rates of interest declined and other people started shopping for and adorning houses.
“There was a time after I was promoting my merchandise earlier than it even arrived. I might take the pictures myself in Europe, and after I returned I might present designers pictures and they might say, ‘That’s what I want.’ ”
He nonetheless will get a cost out of coming into the workplace six days per week, and expects to maintain at it for no less than three extra years. He stated he’ll in all probability internet between $50,000 and $100,000 this yr.
“I’m 72, I’ve Medicare and I’ve retirement,” he stated. “I’m not wealthy, however I’m not poor. I similar to doing it. After the coronavirus, the economic system turns round. We’re going to have an excellent yr.”