In January 2017, Wolfers Lighting, The Boston Shade Company, and System 7 announced they were merging. The goal of this merger? To provide customers with a true one-stop shopping experience for lighting, lighting controls, automated shades, technology design, and overall home automation.
We recently sat down with some of the key players behind the three brands—Patrick Gilman, Ashley Jacobson, and Merrie Pendlebury—to discuss what's next.
Patrick is the Director of Customer Experience. The "experience" part has to do with both online and in-person interactions. His initial focus has been refreshing the three websites so that they have a consistent look and feel. "We'll roll out the new System 7 site soon," Patrick says. "And we have big plans for a new Wolfers eCommerce site. I've also been working with the customer service teams, particularly at System 7, to ensure that our customers receive the white glove service that they deserve."
Ashley is the Director of Operations for System 7. Hired as the "number four" employee a decade ago, she's worked on everything from design to product management. As for what she manages today, Ashley explains, "I currently oversee all of the operations for System 7 from our installers, our designers, our purchasing, and our project management teams. I also oversee part of our Client Services department as well that Patrick has been helping with."
Merrie is the Showroom Manager of our Boston location and is responsible for planning and opening the new Experience Center in the Boston Design Center in the not-too-distant future. "In the meantime," she says, "I'm managing social media promotion for System 7 and The Boston Shade Company. In addition, I’m spearheading marketing and branding activities for The Boston Shade Company, strengthening our trade partnerships, and doing day-to-day showroom activities in our current location in the Design Center."
Below is the Q&A with the team.
Let's take a step back and revisit the merger. Why did these three companies decide to merge? What was the big "vision" behind it?
Patrick: Well, prior to the merger, the three companies kept 'bumping into' each other on different projects. For example, The Boston Shade Company was selling shades, and System 7 was designing systems that controlled them. We thought, Why not sell them AND control them? So System 7 acquired Boston Shade. And then a few years later, something similar happened with Wolfers. Gerry Lynch, Founder and Owner of System 7, along with Steve Brand and Jeff Seigal from Wolfers decided to merge. The result is a company that offers not only lighting and shades, but also controls and home automation that creates a complete solution. As a customer, you now have a single point of contact helping you design and control all the elements of a modern home.
Ashley: One thing I'll add to Patrick's comment is that technology is driving all of these systems. Think of it like this: lighting is just as much about the technology as it is about simply turning on a light bulb. All of these systems have become more complicated in recent years, thanks to the technology. It has gone way beyond simply hiring an electrician to hook up a light fixture. You need a technology design process to work through how all the different technologies will integrate seamlessly.
The same is true with shading, thanks to automation. Because of the technology, you need to have a different level of design and installation. So like Patrick was saying, having all three brands under one umbrella offers clients a one-stop shop that ties everything together instead of piecing together different technologies across multiple vendors.
How has the merger gone? Are customers "getting" what you're offering?
Patrick: Since the merger, this cross-pollination has really benefited our customers. Teams from each brand work closely with one another. Lighting experts from Wolfers can now offer insight on shades and home automation, for example. Likewise, for the folks at The Boston Shade Company. In addition to peerless technology design and home automation, System 7 can now offer expertise in lighting design and shades to provide a true full-service experience.
Let's talk about the Wolfers Allston store, which is moving in with Waltham on June 30th in preparation for the new Experience Center opening in the Boston Design Center. What can consumers and trades people expect from the "new" Wolfers in Waltham?
Patrick: The bottom line is they're going to get the same great service by the same people, just all in one convenient location. This summer, we'll be doing some remodeling of the Waltham showroom to accommodate these changes. The goal is to create a space that fosters the experiential process that customers crave. Right now, our lighting showrooms are focused on just that, lighting, with some shades and a little technology. The 'new' Wolfers in Waltham will have more shades and more technology to complement the vast lighting displays.
Perfect segue into home automation and technology design. What do you want our readers to know about these areas?
Ashley: Home automation and technology design are all about allowing you to live easier in your space. For example, we can design a system so that when you walk into your house, you can press one button on a keypad, and it lights a pathway to your kitchen—you're not trying to fumble with your groceries while turning on lights. It's turning on your music from your iPhone and integrating all of your streaming services with TVs throughout your home. Or controlling your climate from your phone. It's about giving you peace of mind, too. You can login from a phone or tablet and watch the feed from your video cameras. Or you can get text messages when your heat drops below 68 degrees. You get the idea. It's about customizing a system to meet your specific needs for a particular space.
If someone is considering home automation and technology design, what should they keep in mind? What's the process like if they want to work with you?
Patrick: Their first step should be to choose the right partner, and we believe we are that partner since we offer expertise in lighting, lighting controls, shades, technology design, and home automation. Sure, there are tech-savvy people who can take an Alexa and a handful of devices and connect them together to make their home "smart." But if you're building a new home or doing a complete renovation, you should seriously consider choosing a partner like us, because there are so many considerations, so many nuances. We can help you work through all that so you get it done right, and exactly the way you want it, the first time.
Ashley: In terms of our process, we start by asking lots of questions so we can understand how the people in the home are using the space. Do you watch a lot of TV? Are you streaming different things, like Netflix and Hulu? Do you use a lot of WiFi devices? Do you want to control something remotely or get text message alerts? The list goes on and on. We try to understand how you live your life so that we can recommend products and implement a design and technology solution that helps you live your life more easily.
Is this process different for new construction as opposed to renovations?
Ashley: For new construction, we love working with the customer—be it a homeowner or builder, or both—early in the process, before a foundation is even poured. Similarly, we like to be involved before a renovation begins. Because once we're part of the design, we can truly integrate the technology into the architecture instead of just putting it on top of the architecture. It's a collaborative effort throughout the process from the beginning to the end. For homes that already exist, we usually work directly with the homeowner. In new construction, there is a team of people and other trades involved in our day-to-day activities. Our team is prepared to perform all tasks be it new construction or a renovation. We can run wires, install equipment, and program the systems.
Let's talk about the new Experience Center, which is Merrie's specialty. What was the reasoning behind developing this Experience Center?
Merrie: The reasoning behind it is to bring everything together under one roof in a technology pavilion, if you will. It will be an Experience Center where you can touch and feel and see everything. It's for architects, it's for designers, it's for the homeowner. This will be open to everyone.
In terms of what to expect, we're not ready to reveal too many details yet, but we'll have lighting, we'll have technology, and, of course, we'll have the shades like we do now. It's going to be a curated collection of the best products that we offer. We'll also have some really cool and unique technology experiences that I don't think anyone else has in Boston or in New England. But I can't be too specific on them yet.
Ashley: Like Merrie said, the Experience Center is going to be very curated. It will show a lot, but in a minimalistic way so that it can be a collaborative space. Our Waltham showroom has a lot on display, so it's more of a retail experience, but the Experience Center is going to be more of a design experience and show you very specific collections of fixtures and technology. Think of it as a destination place that people will want to go to experience something a little differently than our Waltham location.
Merrie: We're really excited about it. I think it will definitely be a must-visit for anyone that's designing a technology integrated home.
Do you have questions? Let us know.