About AERO SHADE | Custom Window Converings
“Aero Shade has been around for more than 50 years and it has been in this neighborhood.”
Working evenings and weekends for 12 years while holding down a full-time job doesn’t sound like the ideal way of entering the window coverings business. It just happens to be the route taken by Jack Pitson and Mario Soulema of Aero Shade Co. Inc., Los Angeles, CA. Pitson and Soulema were working at jobs outside the industry when, in 1976, Pitson’s father-in-law, Herman Blumenfeld, suggested selling mini-blinds. Blinds were something Blumenfeld knew about-at the time the 30-year veteran was working as plant manager for a California fabricator. Pitson placed an ad in the paper and set out with a 12-color sample deck. “It was the beginning of the mini-blind craze,” he recalls.
Soon this “little side business” was doing so well Soulema, his cousin, joined him. “We did our own selling, measuring and installing while both holding down full-time jobs,” Pitson says.
By 1988 the two were actively looking to purchase a retail store. By fate or coincidence they met Harold Harvey, owner of Aero Shade Co. Inc., a small Los Angeles shade shop founded in 1947, and a deal was made. Aero Shade Co. now is an equal partnership between Jack and Miriam Pitson and Mario and Shelley Soulema, making it truly a family-run business.
In fact, Soulema describes Aero Shade as being “like a marriage-there are good days and bad days but everyone gets along and everything runs smoothly. “Miriam and Shelley run the office handling, the bookkeeping, accounts payable and accounts receivable. Mario Soulema handles sales, but on a limited basis. His time is spent managing and overseeing production in the company’s factory as well as scheduling three full-time installers.
Jack Pitson heads Aero Shade’s sales force and deals with the company’s more prestigious clients including local universities and the top contractors and architects in L.A. who work exclusively with executives and celebrities in the entertainment industry.
A family-run enterprise has its advantages, among them being close control over all aspects of the business and complete trust and confidence in each partner. But it’s not always easy.
“Our business requires long, hard hours in order to accomplish our goals, which have always been to provide the highest quality products and the best service,” Soulema says. The result of that effort is loyal customers and word-of-mouth referrals that have given Aero Shade its star-quality reputation reaching all the way back to those days of working evenings and weekends.
The Aero Shade retail store can be found in an ideal location: “We’re a mile from the design center of Los Angeles, and we’re right in the Beverly Hills area,” Pitson says. At just under 1,000 square feet, the store holds both showroom and offices. The showroom setup, therefore, is critical.
“We have a complete showroom with samples of virtually all products. This gives the customer the opportunity to see, feel and test the products in a hands-on manner, ” Soulema says. “We try to utilize all our space to the fullest with displays, our books and working tools,” he adds.
The majority of Aero Shade’s sales are in window shades, which includes laminated shades and a large variety of room darkening and translucent shades, along with an expanding line of sheers. These products make up about 60 percent of the store’s sales, Soulema estimates.
“We also sell a large amount of draperies, wood blinds, cellular shades, Roman shades, vertical blinds and are capable of motorizing them all,” says Pitson. “Other specialty items include rolling shutters, retractable awnings and exterior porch shades. These products combined make up the rest of our sales,” he says.
Mesh shading systems are “extremely popular,” Pitson says, especially because they can be motorized. “Here in Southern California we have homes up in the hills with gorgeous views, and we have homes in Malibu with gorgeous views and homes in Pacific Palisades… different areas that have views throughout the city that have sun problems,” he says.
The store’s location affords some walk-in traffic, but stop-ins are mainly because of name recognition. “Aero Shade has been around for more than 50 years and it has been in this neighborhood,” Pitson explains. Part of what attracted them to Aero Shade when the two were looking to buy a business was the type of company it was, the product it was manufacturing, how long it had been in business and its reputation. “Basically it was an overall picture that Jack and I saw that had potential,” Soulema says. “We did give thought to opening up from scratch, but it would have been too difficult to do, trying to build a clientele with all the competition out there.”
“We were looking for a base, an existing business that had all the parts working,” Pitson adds.
Actually, the location of their store has always had a shade shop as resident dating back to Aetna Shade in 1929. Even Aero Shade’s manufacturing facility has a history in the industry. The building, which Pitson and Soulema purchased 10 years ago, was once a Venetian blind factory. The man they bought it from was part of a father-and-son business and had built the factory with his father. Today, Aero Shade uses the facility to manufacture roller shades for wholesale, retail and contract customer base.