Debbie Lacy, general manager of The House of Canvas Inc., Glendale, Ariz., takes pride in her family owned and operated custom awning business. From residential and commercial window awnings to shade screens and roll curtains, everything from start to finish is done in-house. Here, Lacy shares her thoughts about the business, her predictions for the future of the awning industry and The House of Canvas’ “Shady Deals” that keep customers happy.
How did you get involved in the company/industry?
My parents and aunt and uncle bought the business in 1972 and recruited my cousins, sisters and me to work after school, weekends and summers. I worked at other jobs—canvas was not my bag—but came back to the family business to work with my three sisters. We bought the business from our parents in 2002.
What are the biggest challenges you face?
Working with my sisters—just kidding. Like any business, it’s finding qualified employees. It’s very hard to find experienced people or young people with a work ethic. Most of our employees are considered family and stay with us for years.
What do you anticipate for your industry in the next five years? Ten?
I think we will see more fixed valance awnings. With the fabric and thread warranties extended to 10 years, people expect even more life out of their awnings. We work with several communities that have a lot of awnings and I don’t see that changing in the next 10 years.
As far as commercial, I think we will see more shade screens and panels worked into steel structures. We do specialty products, dust and vacuum bags, for manufactures and believe with the “green movement” that will increase in the future.
What are the biggest rewards?
Working with my sisters and continuing the family business. We take pride in making quality products
at a fair price. Working with our “partners in crime,” both customers and employees, is a privilege.
We have been working with some of the same customers for over 30 years.
Why did you join IFAI? Which services/benefits do you use the most?
To be more connected to the industry. The Review has been very helpful—we have a closet full of old copies that are still relevant to what’s happening today.
What are your hobbies outside of work?
I love to spend time with my boyfriend (who also happens to be my husband). We like to hike, fish, travel and just hang out.
Who has been your biggest influence, personally or professionally?
My father. He built this business from a ma and pa shop to what it is today. He was smart, honest,
funny and had integrity. He lived the Golden Rule and always looked out for the underdog.
What is number one on your bucket list?
I once spent part of a year in Wisconsin—got there right after the snow melted and left before it started again. As I was driving to work for the third shift in a factory at Turtle Lake Hartzels Plastics, out of nowhere, the sky started the most spectacular light show I had ever seen. My carpool buddy said, “Oh, that’s just the Northern Lights. Haven’t you seen them before?” Being a desert rat, I had not! I would love to see the Northern Lights again and share that experience with my husband.