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Dominion Lighting
Dominion Lighting’s new showroom was designed with ample space where designers and residential customers can browse product catalogs, lay out color schemes, blueprints and other design material.

Selling the Experience of Lighting

Sept. 30, 2021
Matt Rowan and his team of lighting sherpas in Dominion Lighting’s new showroom use the facility to expose designers to the latest lighting options.

Matt Rowan likes to joke that even though he spent years as a commercial interior designer and on a design team for the Gensler architecture firm, there was something about lighting that always fascinated him. When he and his brother broke out the Legos to build forts, he was always sure to grab plenty of clear blocks so he could use flashlights to provide their structures with proper illumination.

He is now helping designers and homeowners in northern Virginia and the Washington, D.C., metro area develop first-class lighting systems of a different sort in Dominion Lighting’s new lighting showroom in Arlington, VA.

The new facility, which opened last year, required a sizeable investment for the 81-year-old Dominion Electric Supply Co., Inc., ranked #36 on Electrical Wholesaling’s 2021 Top 150 ranking with 270 employees and 11 locations. CEO Stephen Krooth wanted to position the new showroom in the company’s 73-year-old headquarters as a place where interior designers, home builders and residential customers could learn about great lighting. He hired Matt Rowan, then a studio director at Gensler, to “completely rethink the experience of shopping for and understanding lighting.” According to a press release on the new showroom, Krooth gave Rowan the freedom to totally focus on the core experience of light and not be constrained by any aspect of the old showroom. After completing the plan for the redesigned showroom, Krooth asked Rowan to join Dominion as VP of residential lighting to implement the plan and bring his vision to life.

Designing a showroom that would meet the educational needs of both designers and residential customers was an interesting challenge for Rowan, and he kept one mantra in mind while designing the space: do more showing and less saying. To do this, he created a facility that showcases the experience good lighting can create for an application. It’s a curated approach that uses a few selected options for a lighting application both in their overall strategy and in the many new vignettes in the showroom. It’s a radical departure from the all-too-common residential lighting showrooms crammed with a forest of ceiling fixtures and staffed by salespeople just concerned with moving fixtures and bulbs out the door.

“We’re never going to be able to compete with the internet, says Rowan. “We are not selling things, we’re selling an experience. We’re selling knowledge. We wanted to position ourselves as sort of a sherpa for lighting.”

Rowan believes the many lighting options now on the market can overwhelm customers, and they are looking for someone to guide them through what they want. “That’s where we come in,” he says. “It’s always better to show than it is to say, and if someone’s going to get on board and understand the power of lighting, we have to demonstrate it.”

The staff teaches customers about quality lighting with a lighting lab that demonstrates lighting effects; a bulb wall comparing the light emitted by LED and incandescent bulbs; a gallery with curated groupings of fixtures clustered around platforms with integrated desks, product catalogs and hidden storage; and vignettes where higher-end fixtures are displayed in context.


In the Light Lab, salespeople use voice commands to activate a scene mimicking typical builder-grade lighting; a rebalanced scheme with proper lighting direction and placement; and a “relax” scene that demonstrates soft lighting perfect for cocktails with friends.

“The Light Lab immerses visitors in a space where they can feel the effect of good lighting,” according to the press release. “This usually creates an ‘aha’ moment, after which they’ll never settle for bad lighting again,” says Rowan.


One of Dominion Lighting’s truly unique resources is its Designer Studio where lighting specialists can work side-by-side with interior designers, contractors and residential customers. The space includes a large digital screen, plenty of table space and refreshments. Designers will also find dedicated shelving so they don’t need to transport heavy sets of drawings or finish palettes back and forth. Rowan says its design clientele includes many residential designers who often work out of their homes, and they appreciate having a professional facility to bring clients. “They don’t have a space to meet with their clients and spread out drawings, or bring all the finishes,” he says. “To be able to provide that for them goes beyond the idea of being a partner that’s only talking about lighting. It’s a good thing especially from a business standpoint to be their trusted advisor and advocate.”

Rowan has spent lots of time thinking through how to make the best possible impression on designers. Part of his approach is projecting a professional image so designers see his team as lighting experts. To do this, Rowan and his team all dress professionally in either black, white or grey, a uniform of sorts that they hope won’t distract from the fixtures on display. They also have plenty of refreshments and healthy snacks available for designers’ meetings with customers. An extension of the curated, professional image he wants the facility to project can be seen right down to the upscale boxed water in the refrigerator for customers.

Another extension of the professional image he is trying to create is that the Sonos music system in the showroom that helps set the tone of the lighting experience they create, and the app-based control of both light and sound that they use to market the latest in wireless lighting control.


Rowan says that over the past few months he had learned quite a bit about customers’ buying preferences, how they like to shop and their favorite features of the lighting showroom. He and his lighting specialists have found that customers are posting images of the Bulb Wall on Instagram, which provides some nice additional promotional exposure. They are also surprised with how much time customers like to spend leafing through catalogs of lighting products. Rowan wanted to create the sleek, open look of an art gallery in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, and didn’t want a wall of binders intruding on the space, so he had “cubbies” designed to hold the binders. “One thing we didn’t realize is that some of our clients like to come in and they just like to sit and browse and one of the most visited things that we had was this huge catalog from Visual Comfort. It looked like a coffee table book,” he says. “I have seen more people sit down and just leaf through that for hours.”


Rowan has been encouraging some lighting manufacturers to create small-run hardcover books that they can keep on display in the showroom. They already have the creative materials stored digitally, and printing a book is not a huge investment.

Dominion Lighting also found that the appointment-only format that they had to use because of COVID-19 actually allowed them to spend more quality time with customers, and they have continued with them.

Rowan and his team continue to think of new and innovative ways to use their new space, and in the future they plan to host designer events, continuing education sessions, community gatherings and even receptions honoring the local artists who exhibit their work in a special gallery in the showroom.

Rowan says he gives Stephen Krooth a lot of credit for being willing to make such a massive change to the company’s lighting showroom and see that telling the story of light could have commercial value for the business. “That’s a pretty gutsy move for him to be willing to do that with the space in a building that’s been here for so many years,” he says. “But I think it’s also really smart as a businessperson in a business environment where things are changing so quickly.”

About the Author

Jim Lucy | Editor-in-Chief of Electrical Wholesaling and Electrical Marketing

Jim Lucy has been wandering through the electrical market for more than 40 years, most of the time as an editor for Electrical Wholesaling and Electrical Marketing newsletter, and as a contributing writer for EC&M magazine During that time he and the editorial team for the publications have won numerous national awards for their coverage of the electrical business. He showed an early interest in electricity, when as a youth he had an idea for a hot dog cooker. Unfortunately, the first crude prototype malfunctioned and the arc nearly blew him out of his parents' basement.

Before becoming an editor for Electrical Wholesaling  and Electrical Marketing, he earned a BA degree in journalism and a MA in communications from Glassboro State College, Glassboro, NJ., which is formerly best known as the site of the 1967 summit meeting between President Lyndon Johnson and Russian Premier Aleksei Nikolayevich Kosygin, and now best known as the New Jersey state college that changed its name in 1992 to Rowan University because of a generous $100 million donation by N.J. zillionaire industrialist Henry Rowan. Jim is a Brooklyn-born Jersey Guy happily transplanted with his wife and three sons in the fertile plains of Kansas for the past 30 years. 

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