Godfather of the lighting industry, icon, mentor: These are just a few terms of endearment for Murray Feiss by his competitors, customers, sales representatives and friends.
“Murray’s my business hero,” said Bill Winsor, Dallas Market Center president and chief executive officer. “In my mind, he’s the personification of the lighting industry. He’s been a viable and committed partner with our company, sharing his vision for what’s best for the industry, not necessarily what’s best for his company or for Generation Brands.” Winsor praised Feiss’ “passion and commitment, and dedication of principles he brings to this industry. Murray lives by what’s right: a very admirable character. He’s been a leader of leaders for us and he’ll be missed.”
Feiss’ leadership was applauded by others.
“I look at him as one of those people who steered the direction of the residential lighting industry,” David Director, principal of Connecticut Lighting, told HFN. “He’s been so right-on relative to looks, trends, what’s hot, what’s not, that they’ve been a role model for a lot of companies to look at for decorative lighting,” Director said.
“He truly has contributed to the development of the showroom business,” added Susan Solomon Auerbach, executive vice president at Sea Gull Lighting, a former “friendly competitor” whose family-run company joined with Feiss under Generation Brands in 2005. Auerbach has known Feiss since 1982 as a “very respectful, kind, generous man who treated me with the utmost respect.”
She described Feiss as “very well-rounded. He’s got a great sense of style. He’s pretty unique: He’s a true entrepreneur who understands customer relations, how to run a company; understands finance and fashion,” Auerbach said. “He’s a unique man. On a personal level, it’s been a great experience working very closely with him.”
Many mentioned the Feiss family’s work ethic, dedication and genuine concern for people. “This is old school,” Director said. “They eat, sleep and drink their business. Their life is their business. Their passion is incredible. It’s a life that they’ve made for themselves through friendship and people,” Director said.
“Look at Dorothy Feiss: My first reaction was, no one can be this nice; something’s wrong. But each time you meet her, it gets nicer. Then, when something happens in your family—a wedding, a birth, an illness—you get a phone call. When my mother was sick, Dorothy called every day. It’s not about business. Every time you see her, it’s ‘How are your kids?’ That to me makes it special.
“Look, we all run businesses,” Director said. “But the bottom line is there’s more to it. There has to be more to it.”
Ira Phillips, chairman of Quoizel and fellow octogenarian, said: “Murray’s an icon. Look, there are only a few of us left. He’s a tough competitor; a good competitor. We’ve had fun together; we created great things together.”
The two, along with Fred Glassman of Fredrick Ramond and Adolph Ebenstein of Majestic, created the Four Star program to reward buyer loyalty with trips to Dallas and lavish entertainment. Creative concepts like that were later used by DMC, where Feiss was one of the first lighting firms to sign a lease prior to the Trade Mart construction in 1957.
Phillips and Feiss have served for years on the DMC Lighting Board of Governors. “Murray was very influential in coming up with very, very good ideas to help create traffic,” Phillips said.
Phillips praised Feiss for being the first to sell big-box stores under a different company [Royce Lighting]; for creative marketing, promotions and customer loyalty trips; for leading the first DMC expansion to the fourth floor; then more recently securing the large Las Vegas showroom space.
“Murray was certainly one of the leaders in the lighting industry. He helped make the consumer aware of lighting more than ever before,” Phillips said.
“To me, Murray was the energy of Murray Feiss,” said Maria Scutaro, former executive director of sales and marketing. “He’d go to China for three weeks and those three weeks would be horrible: the energy wasn’t there. He so loved what he did, it was infectious.
“Murray always said, ‘invest in your customers; invest in your reps.’ He knew not to nickel and dime on stupid things,” Scutaro said. And those strong bonds with reps and customers are rewarded with loyalty, she said.
One 18-year Feiss rep, Neil Graves, said: “Murray has been a mentor to me and so many people at all levels of the industry. Part of my drive to succeed has come from the handshake and ‘Good job, Neil,’ from Murray throughout the years. It has always meant a lot to me and the staff at Tri-State Sales.”