Local company offers awning options for outdoor enjoyment

Grand Rapids Awnings reopened this year, enjoys long, colorful history

David Bayne, president of Grand Rapids Awnings and sister company Muskegon Awning & Fabrication, knows how much Michigan residents appreciate our outdoor living spaces and recreation. His company is the largest awning and fabrication business and has been serving homeowners, boat owners and business owners for more than a century.

It was around 1890—as the story goes—when an 18-year-old English boy, Horace Schipp, saw a way to make a living by serving both the residents and businesses of Muskegon, Mich. He began repairing feed sacks, harnesses and awnings, and eventually launched a business that would evolve over the years to become Muskegon Awning & Fabrication.

Through the end of 19th century, the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century, the company weathered depressions, recessions, wars and more. Various owners and their families, all as dedicated as the company’s founder, continued to lead and grow the business, expanding services, product lines and facilities to meet the needs of a diversity of customers.

Today, Muskegon Awning and Fabrication and sister company Grand Rapids Awnings serve homeowners, boat owners and business owners in Grand Rapids, the Michigan Lakeshore, the state, the region and beyond.

“We’ve opened Grand Rapids Awnings in order to be more convenient and accessible to Grand Rapids’ homeowners and business owners,” said Bayne. “For over a century, Muskegon Awning & Fabrication has been serving the region, and we believe we’ve lasted this long because of our commitment to providing our customers with quality products and superior service. As part of that commitment to our Grand Rapids customers, we’ve opened Grand Rapids Awnings.”

The business is located at 3150 Plainfield Ave., Suite 1, and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday; closed on Sunday.

The company is the largest fabricator of awnings in the area, employing 14 full-time people. Bayne said most of the employees have been with the company in excess of 15 years.

“This is the nice thing about having a number of people on our staff,” Bayne said. “We have more than one person qualified to complete the work. There are technical aspects to sewing, welding and fabrication and special training required. Most of what we do is custom projects. It takes years to train and then cross-train our people to learn how to complete every aspect of the projects we fabricate.”

Bayne grew up in Grant, a small farming community north of Grand Rapids. His family had a farming and trucking business.

“I learned at a very young age that you should treat your customers as you would your neighbors because, in Grant, most of them were!” continued Bayne. “That lesson has stayed with me. Treating customers as if they were our neighbors is the foundation for all of our customer service policies and practices. We build relationships with customers.”

Bayne believes there are two things about our business that everyone should know. “First of all, you can count on great customer service. We are an anomaly in an era of poor service, of endless waiting in phone queues and of unreturned phone calls. Most companies build firewalls to protect themselves from their customers. At our business we answer the phone, make appointments, return phone calls and value our customers’ time.”

Bayne said many times customers act amazed that his staff shows up on time, as if this is no longer the normal in the business world. He believes many companies cut services and cheapened their products in order to survive the recent financial difficulties. He doesn’t think that trend was a wise one.

“Contrary to that thinking, our business continued to focus on the customer and fabricate the best-built projects/products in the region,” said Bayne.

The company offers industrial, contractual sewing as well as custom fabrication. “In fact, we’ve created several prototype designs to solve customers’ needs,” Bayne noted.

They can also clean, repair and recover all types of awnings, covers and canvas items.

The company has the area’s largest selection of styles, colors, designs and materials on display at Grand Rapids’ only awning showroom. According to the Professional Awning Manufacturing Association, awnings, outdoor curtains and sun shades have grown in popularity in recent years because they do more than enhance the appearance of a business or home, they also reduce energy usage, cut utility costs and protect people and property.

Awnings today are strong, durable and resistant to water, dirt, mold, mildew and sun. UV-resistant material, used in making awnings and outdoor curtains, is recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Awnings are more affordable and flexible than hard construction. Many awnings are motorized with remote-control units and can extend and retract as needed, at the touch of a button. Outdoor curtains and industrial curtains can be retracted, rolled up or moved.

Commercial awnings and canopies also provide signage and serve as lighted billboards for businesses. For example, residents of Grand Rapids can see some of the awnings and canopies made by Muskegon Awning & Fabrication and Grand Rapids Awnings on the Twisted Rooster, Cascade Commons and Johnny Carinos to name only a few of many.

The company can be reached by calling (616) 361-4456 or by e-mail at help@grandrapidsawnings.com or visit online at www.grandrapidsawnings.com.

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