The globetrotting founders of Fixt Electric bring lost fixtures into the modern world
Taylor Kaszynski and Nathaniel Jackson are real-life treasure hunters.
The two have traveled thousands of miles, explored abandoned sites and made off with their plunder. But it’s not gold or money they’re bringing back home. It’s vintage light fixtures.
Jackson and Kaszynski are the founders of Fixt Electric Co., a Northeast Minneapolis-based purveyor of Soviet-era industrial lighting. While it may not quite sound like treasure hunting, the two and their partners have ventured into Russian laboratories and Ukrainian mine shafts to buy and bring back unique fixtures that have gone on to grace local restaurants, far-flung homes and even blockbuster movie sets.
“We’ve been approached for TV shows,” Jackson said.
The two North Minneapolis residents started Fixt after snatching up and selling antiques and vintage furniture under the moniker Fine-Ass Furnishings. This is where Jackson and Kaszynski, who are engaged, built up their skills in picking pieces and molding an aesthetic that they would later use at Fixt.
“You have to trust your gut. You have to go based off of aesthetic, quality, color and design. It’s all there,” he said.
Then Jackson’s passion for lighting became an alternative business plan. They would hire a translator, travel to Eastern Europe and make contacts in order to find, restore and sell Soviet and Bauhaus factory fixtures, a “hot commodity” back in the United States.
The path before them wasn’t easily laid out. Their quest for the lights started with zooming into photos on urban explorer blogs online so they could nail down what former military and industrial buildings held the right fixtures.
But their trip was a success. In late 2015, Kaszynski and Jackson headed to Moscow and shipped back roughly 4,000 light fixtures and countless more parts. For reference, the supply filled a 40-foot shipping container to the brim.
“We purchased so many light fixtures in such large quantities that we didn’t really even know everything that we had until we unloaded it,” he said.
The two set up shop in the basement of the Thorp Building in Logan Park and opened a “monstrosity” of a warehouse space in St. Paul where they keep more of their remaining 3,000 or so fixtures. In their Northeast Minneapolis studio, they gut the fixtures of their wiring and replace them with modern technology. Because Fixt is a one-stop-shop for the fixtures, they also repair and customize orders.
The lights themselves bare an aesthetic that has come to be synonymous with Fixt. With uncommonly thick glass, porcelain enamel finishes and rare designs, the fixtures keep much of their original glory, whether they once lit a Soviet Union bridge or led pedestrians through the tunnels of Moscow’s subway system during the 1950s or 1960s.
“If you’re looking at getting an interesting light, we just have an aesthetic that nobody has and we want to try to stick with that,” he said.
Fixt does a clear majority of its work with commercial clients, some through interior design or architecture firms looking for vintage industrial lighting or unique statement pieces. Its fixtures, many of which have Minneapolis-specific names like Brutalist Bottineau and Teal Tangletown, get homes in businesses from the Mall of America’s cosmetic retailer Lush to the set of Will Smith’s next movie or a German nightclub.
While the company ships internationally, Northeast Minneapolis residents can find some of their fixtures in Maeve’s Café — Fixt’s first customer — and the Machine Shop, among other locales.
“Northeast is our hood. Northeast is our home,” Jackson said. “We feel fortunate to do the business that we do in Minneapolis.”
Despite sitting on a wealth of lamps, the two are already planning their next trip, another adventure in Russia and Eastern Europe to pick up another round of lights. With the help of Jackson and Kaszynski, the fixtures will get another chance at life — whether it’s lighting a meal at a neighborhood restaurant or making a statement in a distant home.
“Each light fixture tells a story,” Jackson said.