Bertie Ray III, Switch

Explain what items and services Switch offers.
Switch Lighting & Design is Cincinnati's premier source for modern architectural lighting. With over 50 lighting lines, we retail and source lighting for residential and commercial projects, both small and large. As a speciality lighting retailer and distributor, we work with homeowners, architects, developers and interior designers to create fresh and unique lighting plans that capture the imagination and complement the space.

When invited, we consult on design projects. A couple of noted projects include the full remodel and redesign of Lavomatic Café at 12th & Vine. Switch partnered with Marilyn Wade to create a savory environment that elevates the dining experience. A reviewer said that the design was like a scene from a Steven Soderbergh film. Our design team, led by my business partner, Drew Dearwester, is credited with having designed a Sonoma County, CA marvel, The Crane House. This 1,500-square-foot getaway pays homage to the crane with its outstretched and curved wings.

We are credited with a number of signature lighting projects in Cincinnati, including the Mercantile Library and Kaze's GastroPub: Those two massive red Bell Pendants took nearly 17 weeks to come from Italy, and it was among the first installation of its kind in the United States. We also worked with a local architecture firm to design and supply the decorative lighting for the corporate headquarters of Intelligrated, based in Mason. Our most recent restaurant project is the new Taste of Belgium on Short Vine.

Depending on our customer¹s needs, Switch can sell a single LED bulb or lead a full residential or commercial remodel.

When did Switch open for business? What were you doing beforehand?
Switch opened it¹s doors at 12th & Vine in October 2008, the day the market tanked more than 777 points. Prior to Switch, my partner Drew worked at Voltage in Oakley; I ran a consultant company focusing on fund development and strategic planning.

What local resources gave proved vital to your success?
Rick Kimbler of Northpointe and Steve Leeper of 3CDC were invaluable to our early success. Each respected us as  entrepreneurs and provided moral support as well as funds to whitebox our once boarded up space. 3CDC helped launch the Gateway Quarter Merchants Association (now a part of the Over-the-Rhine Chamber) and Kimbler structured a fair rental agreement. Architects Joseph Brashear of Brashear Bolton gave us our first commercial job. The Mercantile Library and Mark Gunther of Wichman+Gunther Architects brought us in on a number of early 3CDC/OTR projects, like the Mottainai Lofts.

Why do you run your business in Cincinnati?
Our customers. Our customers are among the most giving and daring people I¹ve met. They trust us when we take them out of the box. They appreciate modern and they love art. I also find Cincinnati to be an easy and fair city that encourages entrepreneurialism. It still surprises me when others talk about the city¹s conservative streak. I just haven¹t seen it yet.

What's next for Switch?
I¹d like to grow Switch into a national brand. But for now, we are focused on growing our retail sales team.

Interview by Sean M. Peters