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How Saturday Night Fever Changed an Electrician into a Leading Lighting Designer

Barry Moltz
Unsplash image of lights

Sometimes fate dares professionals to take the future into their own hands. This is exactly what happened to electrician Gregory Kay over the course of his career. 

Disco Fever

In the 1980s at a popular roller rink in Detroit, a disgruntled contractor cut electric wires to the dazzling disco lighting and threatened a new display. Gregory Kay’s father-in-law owned the roller rink in question and called Greg to fix this electrical problem. It was there that he met well-known entertainment lighting designer Paul Gregory, who had created the famous dance floor in the hit movie Saturday Night Fever.

Greg was immediately excited at the revelation that lighting could affect and shape people’s emotions. Paul became his mentor and Greg began working in the entertainment lighting arena. 

Gregory Kay

Tech Lighting is Born

With no college or design experience, Greg grabbed another new opportunity a few years later. Built on only $2000 of investment, he launched Tech Lighting, a retailer and distributor of decorative lighting from Italy in Chicago.

Greg had developed his confidence early on from his parents who were professionals in art and engineering. At a trade show, when Greg was questioned by a customer how he could be a retailer and a manufacturer he responded, “This is America, I can be anything I want – you don’t tell me what I am!”

Tech lighting homepage

At his small store, Greg was overwhelmed with “people lining up to buy.” Nevertheless, Greg faced difficulties in the early stages of his company. When his best employee left and took many customers with him, Greg was forced to move his family into the warehouse where the inventory was stored for five months. The family had to build their own bunk beds so they could have a place to sleep. 


The Next Evolution of Opportunity

As Tech Lighting had previously sold products from a catalog, moving to the Internet was a logical step. The company started selling lighting on the Internet very early on and saw a lot of success. 

A decade later, Greg realized his American Dream and sold Tech Lightning for tens of millions of dollars. It was then, in 2000, when he opened up Lightology, a company focused on architectural lighting built into the space.

Lightology storefront

Greg wanted his new contemporary showroom to be an educational place that blends “art and science.” My tour of his downtown Chicago location was equal parts museum, science lesson, magic act and lighting showroom. He continues to manufacture and distribute lighting fixtures through his wholesale company, Pure Edge Lighting.

Pure Edge Lighting homepage

The Future is Bright

Greg attributes his success to being able to grab an opportunity when it presents itself. He subscribes to Winston Churchill’s philosophy of never giving up and believing in yourself. 

Greg now studies his trade and develops his vision. He gives lighting architects the linear tools to create their own vision, set the mood and manage emotion with the color of light. 

 


Image Credits
Feature Image: Unsplash / Patrick Tomasso
Image 1, 3: via Gregory Kay
Image 2: via Tech Lighting
Image 4: via Pure Edge Lighting