FROM RUSSIA, WITH LOVE
What happens when one musician, with a background in architectural salvage and antiques, and another musician, with a background in arts and entrepreneurial management, get together? Fall in love and go to Russia, of course.
Let’s back up a step. Meet Nate Jackson and Taylor Kaszynski, owners of Minneapolis-based FIXT Electric, the only company in North America with an unparalleled volume of professionally restored Soviet and Bauhaus factory fixtures. They also do historic perseveration and restoration, as well as custom lighting design.
“Nate’s background is in architectural salvage and antique buying, and through his work he saw there was a big demand for large quantities of vintage, unique, industrial lighting for commercial use,” says Taylor. “You can tell the difference between an authentic light and one manufactured in China.”
Tapping into Nate’s love of history, and their shared love of travel, the couple put their heads together to determine where they could source new lighting options and the couple settled on Russia.
“The industrialism in Russia really reminded us of the industrialism in the United States,” says Taylor. “Being able to provide the type of industrial lighting that country was producing really meets a need we saw here. The light fixtures are different than anything you can find in the states. During the Soviet era, there were certain paint colors used that played on the emotion of Soviet economic times: red, blue, mint green, peach, orange. You just don’t see those colors in industrial vintage lighting in the US.”
The couple spent about a year researching the lighting and the country, and to help fund their lighting venture, they started a vintage furniture business called Fine-ass Furnishings. A year and some months later, after buying and selling Mid Century and industrial furniture across the country, they sold everything – from the business, from their personal lives, you name it – and went to Russia.
“Initially we only had intentions of going to Russia to buy a few hundred light fixtures,” says Taylor. “We wanted to start a small, boutique business.”
But, they hit the mother lode on their first trip.
“We made contact with several different people all over Russia, and it just so happened that the first person we met up with on the outskirts of Moscow had access to around 5,000 light fixtures,” says Taylor. “We ended up shipping them all back.”
On the couple’s second trip to Russia they met with the original manufactures of the fixtures from their first trip.
“Our goal was to get the molds of our fixtures and remake them, so that we could produce larger quantities of our lights for larger commercial projects,” says Taylor.
While Nate’s background is in the industry, Taylor’s is in, “a little bit of everything.”
“My education background is in arts management and entrepreneurial management, and at the end of the day, Nate and I are both musicians,” she says.
The couple still performs regularly and appreciates the fact that being full-time small business owners, allows them the flexibility to be part-time traveling musicians.
Taylor manages the forward-facing side of FIXT, including the brand, website, photography and social media presence. BUT FIXT is small, yet might crew of five right now, so often times its, “all hands on deck,” she says.
In 2019, Taylor and Nate look to grow the company at a healthy rate and expand their portfolio in the Twin Cities, across the country, and with larger jobs.
“Having those molds is a game changer for us,” says Taylor. “Now we have the opportunity to work on larger projects like hotels and apartment complexes. Our lights have been showcased in hotel lobbies before, but it would be really cool to see our lights in the rooms and more.”
FIXT is also UL certified for commercial lighting, which Taylor says comes in handy.
“Clients will find a cool fixture on eBay or Etsy and call us wanting to use it in a project,” she says. “We can make sure all of the wiring is up to code and that all of the parts are UL listed as well. We can be, and are, a huge resource for contractors, electrical engineers, interior designers, you name it, on commercial projects."