On a rainy early fall afternoon, the wooded hills surrounding the eastern Iowa community of Elkader are showing their autumn colors.
But the glow isn’t as bright as the sparks flying at Fire Farm Lighting, where a craftsman is welding pieces of metal together to form a giant ring — key components in a custom lighting fixture.
Small-town Iowa isn’t exactly where you’d expect to find a lighting company that sells its products around the world. Fire Farm is headquartered in a building across the street from the production facility on a side street in downtown Elkader.
It’s here that owner/designer Adam Pollock and his staff create and shape a range of materials — metal, plastic, wood, acrylic and more — into dynamic pieces that transcend “lighting” to become sculptural works of art.
These custom-designed masterpieces can be found in hotels, restaurants, commercial and office space, as well as in residential homes.
“Everything is an experiment, a challenge. We start with a concept and refine it and tailor it to the specific needs of our clients. We push ourselves to maintain our aesthetic and the quality of what we produce,” says Pollock.
Pollock originally started Fire Farm in an Oakland, Calif., garage with Ben Goldstone in 1991. It quickly became a successful business catering to the residential market. But that business began to falter when the U.S. and China signed their historic trade deal in 1999. Chinese-made goods began heavily entering the marketplace, and U.S. manufacturing began moving overseas.
About that time, Pollock and his wife Leslie, visited Elkader with her mother, who grew up in the community. They both fell in love with the small-town Midwestern atmosphere and decided to move to Iowa.
Turns out, it was a smart business move. Pollock carved out a niche by creating custom lighting for commercial markets and collaborating with architects, interior designers and engineers on complex and innovative lighting installations.
He employs 15 people who wear many hats on the job, such as fabricating, welding, laser-cutting, wiring and powder-coating fixtures.
The business owner also has become an advocate for rural regional development in his adopted town. In addition to purchasing property and employing locals, Pollock has given over a portion of his business to retail space, as well as getting involved in numerous community activities.
Fire Farm is collaborating with other Iowa companies, including working on smart lighting systems with Innovative Lighting in Ankeny, and is part of an informal network of related Iowa businesses who provide resources to each other.
The company also is downsizing many of its commercial custom designs in preparation for re-entering the residential market via online retail sales.