WOODBINE — Efficiency and organization should be key components to running a business.
They are also important for when a business is expanding, said John DiPompeo, owner of Bill’s Canvas Shop on Madison Avenue in Woodbine.
With his wife, Grace, DiPompeo bought Bill’s Canvas Shop — a long-running local business and manufacturer — nearly nine years ago.
DiPompeo, 58, said the business has grown about 40 percent since then and is now eyeing innovative products for future growth.
Some of these include KE Durasol Awnings — large, retractable structures with gutters that withstand 70 mph winds — and push-button curtains that go up and down.
Bill’s Canvas Shop manufactures custom awnings, canopies, boat tops and covers. It also sells motorized retractable awnings, solar shades, hurricane and security shutters and a host of other products for homes and businesses. Its products range from providing shade on a porch on a hot summer day to building an entire retractable room from an open-air venue.
The business, which operates year round, employs about 20 people during its busiest times but needs to cut back manpower at the slowest times of year, one reason DiPompeo sees potential in new products.
“I see us expanding into new markets. I see us going into bigger structures,” he said. “I’m also constantly on the lookout for something that gives us year-round business. Our goal is to keep as many of our employees working as we can. It can’t always be done, but we try.”
The business also repairs fabrics and frames and cleans and waterproofs canvas as part of its range of commercial and residential services and products.
“We’re increasing our production capacity here, hoping to decrease our lead times that will also help us generate more customers in the heat of the season,” he said.
The business is a member of the Professional Awning Manufacturers Association, a division of the trade group Industrial Fabrics Association International. In a 2011 report, the association cited growth potential for awnings in the restaurant industry as the economy improves.
DiPompeo is a veteran in the business world. Before buying the Woodbine business, he spent 30 years working for Tastykake, where he was in charge of purchasing.
DiPompeo said manufacturing many of the canvas products in-house gives him the ability to customize and tailor products to specifications.
“We do so many unique things. We’ve never turned a job down for the lack of not being able to do it — we can figure it out one way or another and it’s going to get made. That’s the beauty of custom-making everything.”
DiPompeo said organization and a system of quality checks is important, particularly due to the volume of products being made and installed.
In these capacities, DiPompeo places a lot of emphasis on finding the right employees and promoting proven ones. He gives his foremen decision-making powers, including authority to hire.
“The difference between a business owner and self-employed person — if a self-employed person is out sick, the business in most cases comes to a stop, or some aspect of it does. When you’re a business owner, you put the right people in place and charged with empowerment so they can run the business whether you’re there or not,” he said. “Customers get their jobs done on time, they can answer anyone’s questions, and that frees us up as owners to make the company more efficient, to look at new products, to spend some time to go out and visit some plants rather than micro-managing everything.”
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