Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020 - 21

and loyalty with customers-a key
tenet of Hajek's business philosophy.
Hajek extends that loyalty philosophy
to her suppliers-especially those that
helped her get Pride City off the ground.
"We've found some wonderful
suppliers through IFAI, including
TrivantageĀ® and FutureguardĀ®," she
says. "They gave me credit early on,
acknowledging us as a real awning
company, so I'm very loyal to them."
The business has seen its share of
economic ups and downs. Hajek cites
the period around the 9/11 attacks as one
of them. During that time, Pride City
kept the business stable by focusing on
American flag sales and repairs, which were
flourishing due to increased patriotism.
"You've got to go with the flow," she
says, citing a nesting instinct that seemed
to take hold at the time, with people
being willing to spend money to fix up
their homes to create cozy, safe spaces. At
the start of the current pandemic, Pride
City kept the workroom open and sewed
face masks for the community. By late
summer, the company was busy handling
an uptick in sales of residential awnings,
which Hajek credits to the same nesting
instinct, in addition to people spending
more time living and working at home and
noticing how hot it gets during the day.
"I am busier than I have ever been," she says.
THINKING SKILLS
Finding and keeping qualified employees
has been Hajek's most persistent challenge.
"I had a perfect employee named Marveen
for 18 years who could sew anything. She
passed away 10 years ago, and I'm still
looking for someone like her," Hajek says.
She thinks that part of the problem
is the mind-set of applicants. "Working
in this business isn't so much a job as it
is an apprenticeship, a craft," she says.
Hajek would like to develop a test to give
to potential employees to see if they have
the spatial thinking and problem-solving

Carolyn Hajek's niece, Lisa Boughton, is a part of the second
generation of Pride City Awning & Canvas.

ability the job requires. As she puts it,
"They don't have to know how to sew.
They have to know how to think and
to be able to reason out what you can
do with what you have to work with."
Hajek is thinking about the next era of
Pride City Awning & Canvas. Son Lonnie
runs the frame shop and installations,
and niece Lisa Boughton is also involved
in the business, so Hajek hopes that Pride
City will stay in the family when she and
Good Looking Larry are ready to move
on. Reflecting on her years in the industry,
she takes pride in the fact that she started
small and stayed small while building a
successful awning and canvas company.
"Thirty years later, we're
still going strong."

What advice do you have
for someone who is
interested in starting a
business in this industry?
Look for what makes it fun instead
of what makes it work, and always
be honest with your customers.
If you can't have something done
in six weeks, don't say that you can.

Laurie F. Junker is a freelance writer
based in Minneapolis, Minn.

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Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020

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