Story By Amy Geiszler-Jones - Photography By Madison Ham
Pat Graf had barely left his teenage years behind him when his dad entrusted the 20-year-old to start a lighting business on behalf of the family in Wichita.
That was almost 40 years ago, and now Graf and his brother, Paul, the remaining family owners of the Accent Lighting, are poised to move the business into a larger building that they will build at the Waterfront development, near 13th and Webb. The 25,000-square-foot building – with 20,000 devoted to Accent Lighting and the remainder to a tenant – is expected to open in 2018.
“We learned the old-fashioned way about business, through trial and error, listening to people and common sense,” said Paul, who is the company’s vice president. Pat is the president. While Pat handles the business growth and staying on top of trends, Paul is more focused on product sales.
The lighting business wasn’t totally foreign to the Graf family, since their father was an electrician. He saw a need for a lighting décor shop in Wichita, and suggested his seven children start such a business. Pat and Paul bought out the remaining owners in the early 1990s, they said.
“He allowed us the opportunity to do this, and through his contacts he helped set us up,” Paul said.
While lighting was the initial focus of the business and remains its core product today, Accent Lighting also offers several home interior and décor items. The current 15,000-square-foot store at 2020 N. Woodlawn has several room vignettes on its sales floor, allowing customers to see how various types of lighting will work and function in various rooms. The furniture and accessories are available for sale, too.
“It makes it easier for people to make decisions when they can see how things work together,” Paul said.
The most popular place, said the Grafs, is called “the bling room.”
“Bling is the most accurate description for that room,” said Pat.
Shiny chandeliers and lighting accents that bedazzle draw in both serious and awestruck customers.
While the pair said it seems to draw more female shoppers, the room came about when the Graf brothers took a shine to a particular product line.
“At market one year, we found a line that we fell in love with and transformed a room into the bling room,” Pat said.
Shoppers who love bling will be happy to know that the room will be even larger at the Grafs’ new store.
The Waterfront building will be the fourth – and final, declared the brothers – location for Accent Lighting. The business started downtown, then moved to Rock Road and has been at its Woodlawn location for about a dozen years.
Accent Lighting serves both commercial and residential customers.
“But we’re here not just to sell,” said Paul, noting that the company also provides lighting design services that range from the number of lights, positions, styles and functions and types of lighting for a new build or remodel.
“We’re more than happy to come out to a home or business at no charge to do consulting,” said Pat. On this particular morning, one employee was doing an on-site lighting design consult for a new local restaurant, while another was doing an in-home consultation.
Popular trends now are mid-century modern, farmhouse looks – thanks to the popularity of Joanna Gaines from HGTV, industrial, contemporary and some modern, Pat said.
Of the stores 15 employees, three have been with the business for more than 20 years, and another trio is nearing that milestone, as well, Paul noted. The Accent Lighting website declares that all told, the store offers 175 years of lighting experience.
Those employees, the Grafs said, are what have helped make the business a success by offering one-on-one consultations and outstanding customer service.
“Your employees make your business,” Pat said. “They are the face.”