C. W. Cole & Company, Inc., "Cole Lighting", is one of the oldest lighting companies in the United States, having been established in 1911. It is now owned by third-generation family members, brothers Steve and Don Cole, with fourth generation members, Greg Cole and Katy Cole, already on board. Their grandfather, Clarence Cole, originally began selling "Mazda" lamps, the predecessor to General Electric, from an office in Los Angeles. He soon found that his customers were in need of reflectors and other apparatus for controlling their lighting. A local sheet metal shop provided these items, which were sold with the lamps. By 1918, Mr. Cole had acquired ownership in the shop and had entered the manufacturing business. A new plant was constructed in downtown Los Angeles in 1923 and the company expanded its product line to include a wide range of both architectural and theatrical lighting fixtures.
The company grew with the expanding Los Angeles area through the Depression and World War II, with only war production lighting fixtures allowed in the latter case. After the war, pent-up demand for schools and other facilities which had been halted through the war years led to greater growth. Under the ownership and management of Russell Cole after 1952, sales began in other parts of the country as representatives were added. In 1956 a new plant was built in South El Monte.
In 1969 Steve Cole entered the business after college and Army service. New opportunities arose in 1970 when Cross Lighting, which had actually been a spinoff from Cole in 1934, closed and its showcase and food equipment lighting business was picked up. Similarly, the Wagner-Woodruff Company closed in 1975, leaving personnel and opportunities for greater involvement in the decorative architectural lighting business. Cole had long participated in the custom market, but the demise of Wagner-Woodruff opened the door for Cole to be a bigger player in that market. Cole largely abandoned the theatrical lighting market as it became more involved with controls and more sophisticated equipment. Don Cole entered the business in 1979 after college and Steve became president in 1983.
Today the company splits its business almost evenly between its standard line of products, including Steplites, Darkroom Safelites, Exits and Directional Signs, Plugging Boxes, and Downlites, and its Custom work, including Lightrail illuminated handrail and all types of custom fabrications, from modified simple boxes to elaborate bronze chandeliers. Cole has provided lighting for many of the most significant projects in the country, working with designers in all areas to develop fixtures which meet a wide range of requirements.
Custom lighting remains as the most interesting aspect of the business, as each job presents its own new challenges. The successful accomplishment of these projects requires communication skills and understanding by all parties of each one's needs. The better each one explains their objectives and concerns, the more likely the result will satisfy everyone.
Cole is confidently growing to meet the needs of the industry. We take great pride in working with new developments and bringing the highest standards of quality craftsmanship to the new millennium.