As part of the 12th Annual Showroom of the Year Awards sponsored by LIGHTOVATION and Furniture Lighting Decor Magazine, Kirsten Recce representing Black Whale Home was accounted as their Showroom of the Year / Community Service award winner.

For Kirsten Recce, Founder and President of Black Whale Home, in Encinitas, CA, there is more to retail than stocking the shelves and selling to customers who walk through her door.

Recce considers Black Whale Home to be an integral part of her personal community, physical community and industry community, and she gives back in all three.

And Recce thinks outside the box. Much like her store, which she and her team have morphed from a lighting-only retail showroom to a lifestyle retail showroom where customers can source furniture and accents as well as lighting, Recce embraces a wholehearted approach to how she interacts with her community.
From a personal perspective, Recce has served on the local school district’s executive parent board for the past eight years and she also serves on several citizen and oversight committees there.

In the community, for the past 20 years, Black Whale Home has made large donations to Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore stores, about $30,000 a year. “It doesn’t behoove us to let things linger on our selling floor for a long time,” Recce says, adding that some of her manufacturers also support the program. “They’re shouting out to us all the time,” Recce says of HFH, noting the partnership works for Black Whale’s bottom line as well. “ [ReStore] employees shop here now too.” Recce appreciates that Habitat for Humanity is transparent about how the money they bring in from donated items is spent — on materials to build homes for those most in need.

During COVID this past year, Black Whale Home put even more emphasis on its community when Recce and her team got involved in a program to feed essential healthcare workers while giving local restaurants — many that suffered from early-on shut-downs — an additional revenue stream. Pulling from a program that had been put in place in the community, Recce and team raised more than $16,000 to feed health care workers, buying food from different restaurants that had been hit hard by the pandemic to supply the food. They paid full price — often up to $500 per delivery — to help keep those essential workers in place as well. “It was a great way to get people engaged and give back in a positive manner,” says Recce of the program that evolved organically.

Recce and her staff added such things as Hershey’s Kisses and notes of gratitude to the meals, and they collected coffee pods for the security workers. At the height, health care workers were triaging patients in the parking lot and they’d have to wait for someone to become available to come get the food. This program went on for 147 days. “It was a half a year with people learning about the program through word of mouth and wanting to get involved,” Recce says. “It was something really special to be a part of. It made everyone feel good and created such a sense of community.”

Beyond Encinitas, Recce is involved in her industry community as well. She’s served on the American Lighting Association (ALA) board conference planning committee, and also serves on the Lighting Showroom Association (LSA) board, a group she’s passionate about. “The ALA is a leader in educational programs,” Recce notes, adding that LSA is a place for lighting retailers to have a voice in the industry and have the “hard conversations.” “We challenge our group to look at some of the challenges our industry is facing and share ideas focused on figuring out ways to make it work,” she says. LSA, she adds, is an organization where thinking out of the box is encouraged, creating an environment where everyone in the industry can find real-time support is a focus, and retailers can find mentors. Recce has been involved in creating spreadsheets to share with members that identify discounts and codes that help retailers get better pricing, for example. One of the most recent initiatives through LSA is a job board where retailers and vendors can put out calls for staffing. “LSA is a platform for independent lighting showrooms to amplify voices across all channels,” Recce says, and it’s a community she’s proud to be part of.

As a lighting, and now lifestyle, showroom passionate about its industry, Recce’s and Black Whale Home’s dedication and creativity around lifting up its community and peers illustrate the importance of independent retail. Kudos to Kirsten Recce and her Black Whale Home team on this Community Involvement Award. It is much deserved.

Article from "Showroom of the Year Winners 2021" by sponsors Furniture Lighting Decor Magazine and LIGHTOVATION by Dallas Market Center.