Rob Kole started the company in 1999, shortly after he and his wife Becky built their second home. Following stories about what Bill Gates was integrating into his home, Rob included every conceivable home automation feature that was available at the time. While running his own concert sound and stage lighting company, which was busiest on weekends, he was able to pull the wire and install and program the first available products in our industry.
When he started Kole Digital, he used his own home as a showroom for years, inviting each client to see what technology was possible in each room of this "working showroom".
Their first home theater for a client had motorized drapes on a curved track, custom acoustic treatments, speakers hidden behind an acoustically transparent screen, a starfield ceiling, and a Lexicon touchscreen controller. Rob even struck a deal with a pop vendor so he could install soda lines for the CineBar- unheard of in a home at any price! Business flourished and they added installers while Rob sold and programmed each system and trained each client.
Kole Digital formed alliances with several builders, architects, and designers, who they still work with today. Kole Digital became an indispensable part of the new construction process. With each new van, it became harder to run out of Rob's home, and they moved to a commercial building in Orland Park in 2002, where they expanded to six crews and a dedicated programming team. They were purchasing theater chairs by the truckload and needed more space.
In 2006, Rob formed Kole Development LLC, purchased 2 acres of prime retail property on Route 30 in Frankfort, and began construction of a 21,000-square-foot building. The space would allow more room for operations, CAD design, offices, rack building and product staging rooms, and the largest showroom of its kind. With two 2-story fully-automated homes, five themed theaters, a lighting studio, an audio shoppe, and an AV furniture showroom, it would become a true destination location for the Chicago area. It opened in 2008 and many more people learned what Smart Living was all about.
In 2009, SunSmart was formed, a separate company specializing in automated window fashions. Each window shade or blind has its own IP address and is controlled by an astronomical clock. Using the best products from companies like Hunter Douglas, Lafayette, BTX, and Somfy, they pushed home control to a new level. Not one to rest, Rob started Big Sky Media in 2010 to market our own brand of whole-house media servers. The first model, the Glacier 2, has already garnered a lot of attention.
In 2011, we completed our second yacht installation, pimped out our first tour bus, and completed major projects in Florida and Michigan, and our third in Wisconsin.
In 2012, we added our 10th van and crew and completed our first projects in California and Nevada. Our TV commercials feature Rob, his kids, and our crew, and Rob provides the voiceover for our radio ads. Having installed a theater in radio personality Harry Tienewicz's home, he spoke about our installers on the air every chance he got.
2013 was another big year, as we completed our 300th theater and opened the doors at Kole Design/Build, a separate construction company specializing in the project management of basements, custom homes, and commercial spaces. Our new construction showroom features new kitchens, granite and quartz tops, flooring, plumbing fixtures, appliances, vanities and more.
in 2018, we opened Calabria Cabinetry, our own cabinet factory in Mokena IL, dedicated to building in the European tradition, featuring inset doors, exotic woods and finishes. The same year, we opened our Calabria Design Center in the Kole Digital building.
In 2024, we celebrate 25 years in business! we have completed over 500 home theaters, thousands of media rooms, over 100 finished basements, and we continue to push the edge in creative design!