Breathing Life into Light

Story by Kelsey Franklin

The people that work at Herwig Lighting Company are all about hard work, craftsmanship, and family. Herwig Lighting was founded in Chicago in 1908 and although the location of the company has changed, the family that operates it has not.

The company was founded by Joe Herwig, who later left the company to his sister, Helen McKnight, and her husband. Helen’s son, Bob McKnight, eventually took over the company until his death in 1957.

Bob’s wife Jane later sold the company to her brother Chester Wynn. When Chester took over the company, he had a 14-year-old son, Don. After Chester took over the company, Don started working for his father in the shop after school and on the weekends.

In 1964, Don and his family moved the company to Arkansas. Shortly after the move, the shop burned down and Chester retired. Don took over the company, re-built the shop and got Herwig Lighting back in business.

It has been going strong ever since.

Don Wynn is still the owner of Herwig Lighting, and now his son, Brian Wynn, manages the shop. Brian started working in the shop when he was younger and grew up working for the company, much like his father Don did.

Herwig Lighting specializes in light fixture styles such as Modern, Traditional, Colonial, Gothic and many more. The design and style that seems to be the most popular — that they sell the most of — is their Gothic lantern.

Today, Herwig Lighting is one of the only companies that will actually pack up a light fixture and ship it to the customer at no charge. Don said that people appreciate being able to see what they are actually buying to ensure they are getting what they want.

He added, that they currently have somewhere between seven and eight $1,000 light fixtures being shipped around the country.

One quality that sets Herwig Lighting apart from other companies is the uniqueness of their light fixtures; each one is hand made by the skilled craftsmen who work for the company.

According to Don, most architects and companies they do work for use Herwig Lighting repeatedly throughout the years because of their quality work and their good reputation.

“A lot of it comes from (the business) being so old and having been in business for so many years” said Don.

Another quality that sets Herwig apart from others is their ability to duplicate and re-create fixtures from a picture or existing light fixture. They can also customize and personalize any piece they make to suit a customer’s request.

In addition, they also specialize in converting old fixtures to illumination.

“Service is our main thing. Whatever you want, we bend over backwards trying to give it to you” Don said.

Although Herwig Lighting produces beautiful and unique light fixtures, they are not limited to just that area of work. They also build light posts, street clocks and benches. Judging from the work they do, it is probable that they could build any request a person might have.

Herwig Lighting has built street clocks for many Arkansas cities — including Mulberry, Hamburg, and Fayetteville.

The company has kept their location in the Mid-West for shipping reasons; most of their business is conducted out of state.

In the past they have completed work for several of the Disney theme parks including Orlando, Florida, and most recently for the theme parks in China and France. (Herwig builds custom light fixtures and light poles for the theme parks.)

Last year, two of the Disney designers made a trip to Russellville to visit the Herwig Lighting Shop. Don said the Disney designers create “some really interesting ideas and designs. They’re a lot of fun to work with.”

Herwig Lighting does a lot of work for colleges and universities, which are usually custom orders. They are currently building light fixtures for Notre Dame, but they have also done work for Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Washington University.

Most of Herwig’s work in the past has been commercial. However, since the age of the internet has arrived, the company has created lighting for many upper-end homes and are steadily accepting more residential work.

To view a collection of their work, visit the company website at www.herwig.com. An on-line catalog is available. Or, you could just take a drive around town.

Herwig Lighting has many of their lighting pieces scattered around Russellville. They donated the street clock that is located at the Historic Downtown Depot and the light poles along the railroad tracks. Don said the company also donated half of the light poles that are in the Russellville’s City Park.

They have created light fixtures for Arkansas Tech, including the ball globes in front of the men’s residence hall and the light pole in front of Caraway Hall. Light fixtures on the court house and the city maintenance building are Herwig’s creations, as well. Don laughed and said that, if he had to, he would donate his work to projects for Russellville — just to keep from having to see someone else’s light fixtures in town.

More of their work can be seen by renting the movies Wild Wild West or Elf. Herwig Lighting has created pieces for both films — including light poles, a street clock, light fixtures and a hitching post.

Visits to the shop are welcomed. Don and Brian Wynn are two very friendly people who are eager to answer questions and tell the story of their company. Don said they “are always willing to show somebody around.”

Hopefully, Herwig Lighting will continue to be a company that is passed down through the generations so that the Herwig family will continue to produce their one-of-a-kind light fixtures, street clocks and benches.

Don’s 12-year-old grandson Chad hopes he, too, will one day get involved in the company. Brian and his wife are also expecting a son.

“Hopefully we’ll go another generation,” Don added

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Category: Community Commerce

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