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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Sept. 1, 2014

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In Marketplace

Brass Light owner Stephen Kaniewski travels the globe seeking unique fixtures.

Brass Light Gallery brings lighting treasures to Milwaukee


When you need to shed a little light on the situation, you may want to visit the Brass Light Gallery, which has been illuminating Milwaukee since 1974. This Milwaukee-based company started out in a garage and today provides decorative architectural lighting for residential and commercial environments across the U.S.

Owner Stephen Kaniewski has a background in architectural art history from UW-Milwaukee and has always appreciated Milwaukee's local architecture. While working in an old movie palace, he was intrigued by the antique and restored fixtures. It sparked his interest, so he started to frequent garage sales to pick up lights that he could fix up, restore and sell.

He was committed to the aesthetics, but motivated to make a profit. In the beginning, he sold and restored fixtures out of a garage. Today, he has 104 employees.

With a showroom design center, vintage storehouse, shipping warehouse and manufacturing facility in the Walker's Point area, Kaniewski is a loyal Milwaukee-based business owner.

"I am committed to staying in Milwaukee. It has character and a great quality of life," says Kaniewski. "I have traveled near and far, and it is always great to come back home."

Kaniewski travels in order to find the best materials for his products as well as to collect the most remarkable antique fixtures imaginable. Last year on a trip to Venice and the south of France, he visited the best glassmakers those countries had to offer and secured a resource for spectacular Venetian glass. He then explored other countries and hand-selected 920 individual antique and vintage light fixtures in less than 24 hours.

As you open the doors of a freight elevator in the Brass Light Gallery repository, a sea of antique fixtures overwhelms you. Hanging from the ceiling and organized on tables, they are being sorted by period, style, country and finish. Even more amazing is the fact that the fixtures from his last trip have yet to be unpacked.

Brass Light Gallery is a designer and manufacturer of lighting fixtures, and the materials they select to create their products have to be just right. The alabaster, the glass, the finish options and even the nuts and bolts that hold each piece together have to meet high standards of detail.

"We are among the trendsetters and at the forefront of design in the lighting industry," says Kaniewski. "I want it done right. We have a reputation across the country. People come from England, France and New York because they love the product."

Celebrities such as Harrison Ford, Rudy Giuliani and Tatum O'Neal are Brass Light Gallery customers. While one customer may purchase a single fixture, Brass Light's largest commercial client recently purchased 1,422.

And while people from far and wide purchase Brass Light Gallery fixtures, those who purchase locally have the satisfaction of knowing they are supporting a local business and local craftsmen.

Brass Light Gallery Showroom Design Center is located at 131 S. 1st St. Their Web site is brasslight.com.

Talkbacks

OMCreader | April 2, 2006 at 3:29 p.m. (report)

bohica said: you should interview some of the first employees who built this place to what it is and got screwed.

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OMCreader | June 8, 2005 at 11:24 p.m. (report)

sk8raw said: their long haired sales guy really knows his stuff and is super hot too!

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OMCreader | June 8, 2005 at 9:18 p.m. (report)

Funki said: Blow me a pipe! It'll be our secret!

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OMCreader | June 8, 2005 at 3:29 p.m. (report)

Reluctantly Milwaukee said: Blass Light Gallery makes fabulous products right here in Milwaukee. Their products cost more than the garbage that you get at Home Depot, but they last far longer, look much better, and are not made in China.

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