Steel Art Lighting offers its customers modern interior lighting fixtures in distinctive styles not found on the traditional market including custom lighting pieces for individuals with specific needs.
David Wong, owner of Steel Art Lighting is no stranger to the home furnishing industry. At the age of 18, he began helping his parents at their furniture and lighting store for six years before they had to close it down due to health reasons.
Once the business closed, David worked in different industries to explore his career interests but after three years, he realized he enjoyed working for himself and missed the home industry. He decided the restart the business on his own, along with some guidance from his family.
For nine years, he has operated his business from his first location, Modern Living Space which is a larger store located in Scarborough that offers both furniture and lighting. Steel Art Lighting, which was formerly named Modern Living Space, is his second location on Dufferin Street.
David previously sold furniture at his Dufferin Street location but after testing the market, he realized the store was too small to carry home furnishings.
“I took out the furniture and I realize it didn’t make any sense to keep the name so that’s why I changed it,” said David. “Plus I like the new name too, I think it sounds better and easier to remember anyways.”
Steel Art Lighting specializes in modern interior light fixtures and recommends electricians to its customers for installation. David said the store offers a few traditional crystal chandeliers but mostly focuses on modern styles. While shopping for store inventory, he seeks out fixtures that are unique and not easily found on the market.
David said the store targets more ‘hip and trendy’ customers that tend to have a higher income because the products at Steel Art Lighting are in the mid-price range, however, he said it’s not overly expensive to those who really want it.
“We wanted to stick to a specific style because we didn’t want to be stocking too many different styles,” said David. “This helps us narrow down our customers and stick to a niche market.”
The store also offers custom lighting pieces for customers who have particular needs and specifications. Fixtures can be ordered in different finishes, sizes or customers can even create a new fixture based on a photo they saw on the internet. Custom pieces usually take three months to arrive but David said most customers don’t mind the wait.
David doesn’t source from local suppliers because many stores sell the same product and he strives to stock unique fixtures. As a result, he buys products directly from the manufacturer which allows him to find distinctive styles and provides a higher margin to work within.
The lockdown was difficult for David as he had to continue paying rent while generating no income during those few months when everything was shutdown. Once the store opened up again in late May, the store got busy for six weeks, and then business died down after that.
“I think it was due to the pent up demand during the lockdown and also people upgrading their homes as well,” said David.
COVID-19 not only affected business at Steel Art Lighting but also the inventory supply. David said there were delays in manufacturing since staff stopped working and shipping routes were reduced which resulted in fewer shipments coming in from China.
He explained that even once the shipment arrived in Canada, fewer employees were working at the Canada Border Services Agency and CN Rail. Currently, it takes six to seven weeks for a shipment to arrive compared to the three to four week period before the pandemic. These factors also affect shipping prices which increased by 30 per cent.
David would like to expand his business to more locations but he said having two stores to manage is already a challenge as he works seven days a week for ten hours a day.
“I think if I do decide to open more locations, it’d be more of a franchise structure or owner/partner relationship … I am also shifting my focus online and [seeing] where that will go,” explained David.
Modern Concept is David’s e-commerce site that he launched a month ago. He said the pandemic has driven a lot of brick-and-mortar stores online, himself included.