Specialty Fabrics Review December 2019 - 44

As the conductor of the
orchestra, you need to
know a little bit about
everything that you're
trying to expand into or
you could be left with all
the responsibility and not
have the answers.
CHRIS SHUMAN
Custom Canvas
and Cushions Inc.

44 REVIEW DECEMBER 2019

After five years of steady growth in
awnings, Cruikshank hired sales reps just
for awnings. Once he added awnings,
expanding into other areas didn't seem
so daunting to him. In the years since,
he has begun installing canvas covers for
porch screens, power screens and other
residential products. Branching out into
a broader product line has taught him
some lessons, says Cruikshank.
"The biggest basis for success in our
business is this diversity," he says. "We do
so much today that when one part of the
business isn't real strong, something else
will carry us through a slow time."
That's particularly true given the
location of Cruikshank's business in
the often-frozen Minnesota north. "It's
hard to sell shade or awnings when it's
20 degrees below zero," he explains. "But
that's when we're doing a lot of boat floors

and upholstery-no one is using their
boat because the water is frozen.
"It keeps the business very balanced,"
he says.
FAKE IT 'TIL YOU MAKE IT
"I started sewing when I was 12 years
old," says Patricia Wallace, owner of
Bear Paw Custom Design, in Portsmouth
N.H. "I was of the generation that if you
wanted something, you made it." While
Wallace didn't envision fabrication as her
life's work, her childhood skills would
eventually lead her in that direction.
Wallace spent years in the corporate
environment as a controller, but when the
company she worked for was shut down in a
recession, her ability to sew came in handy.
"We had a boat, and my husband said,
'I want some work done; call the canvas
guy.' I said, 'No, I'll do it' and I pulled out

Custom Upholstery in Brainerd, Minn., didn't do any awning
work when Gary Cruikshank was starting out 30 years ago.
But the opportunity arose, and now awning work accounts for
half the company's business. Photo: Custom Upholstery.



Specialty Fabrics Review December 2019

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