Made in the Shade
Shade by Design creates sunny days for restaurant clients
For 28 years, the brother and sister team of Kevin Drake and Tonya Davis have led Indianapolis-based Shade by Design in its advanced design, manufacturing and installation of awnings and shades for both commercial and residential use. What’s dominating the company’s business recently is the trendy use of awnings and shades for outdoor dining and bar patios.
“The aesthetic value is big, but the real purpose in a restaurant is to keep that area by the window or on the patio comfortable for guests, whether it is shade from the hot summer sun or to protect guests from cold, wind and rain,” says Kevin, the company’s President. He and his sister, Tonya, who serves as the office manager, started the family business in 1991.
“We’ve seen the growth of outdoor dining and patios grow in recent years; it’s really a hot ticket item today,” Kevin says. “Many commercial clients add awnings for curb appeal and for any kind of restaurant or pub it is also a way to enhance table space that they don’t want to lose when the weather is cold. We’ve done Fourth Street Bar & Grill in Columbus and Late Harvest Kitchen in Indianapolis, but the one that has been our biggest project is Tavern on South in downtown Indianapolis.
For the two-story, 1910-era brick Tavern on South with outdoor dining on both levels, it’s crucial to be able to accommodate guests on the patios even when it’s windy or rainy. That’s the specialty of Shade by Design, with its custom-designed-and-manufactured awnings and drop shades.
“We came in and designed a 70-by-16 Pergotenda® from Corradi USA for Tavern on South. This is a structure with a retractable roof system and motorized vertical drops for the side openings, which allows the restaurant to continue seating guests in the cold, wind and rain,” Kevin says. “This system allows them to continue using that table space. Some restaurants have told me that patio seating doubles their revenues and pays for the improvements within a few months, which is an unheard of return on investment in a restaurant business.”
For Tavern on South, the second-level deck seats 60, with a view of the downtown skyline. Kevin says the aesthetics of patio dining are appealing to potential guests who may be strolling by. Tavern on South is located in the shadow of Lucas Oil Stadium and just a quick walk from Victory Field, the Indiana Convention Center and the Indianapolis downtown business district.
Fastest Growing Segment
Servicing those outdoor venues has made vertical drop shades the fastest growing part of the business, Kevin says. Vertical drops include power screens, power shades and retractable screens.
“We’ve always had outdoor seating awnings, whether it was a canopy or something like that; this line of products has enabled us to maximize their space at the push of a button. Drop curtains and stationary panels—which are the old-school items—never accomplished what businesses really needed.
“This zipper track system allows them to have access to that patio year-round,” he says. “They truly have a product now that allows them the ability to keep that space up and running all the time. We’re enclosing more outdoor seating with a canopy that is part of the building. Now, they have the flexibility to lower and raise the sides depending on if they want to close it in or open it up.”
While there has been a version of this kind of product since the company was founded in 1991, this latest product line has evolved in the last four or five years.
With its own fabrication shop, the craftsmen at Shade by Design can design and create just about any kind of canopy or handrails a customer desires.
“We help clients establish what their needs are because about 90 percent of the time, they don’t really know what they need. We look at the space and advise them on the best way to meet their needs,” Kevin says.
“Every job is a custom job because we’re not the typical awning company,” Tonya adds. “We don’t create awnings for strip malls, for example, but we do the products other companies can’t because we can engineer special products, and we have the staff trained to do custom jobs; that is our niche.”
The Shade by Design team includes welders, seamstresses and fabricators who can use a blueprint to cut and create the finished project. Once a frame is completed and the fabric is placed on the frame, the installers get to work. “It’s a lot like making pieces of art every day,” Kevin says.
The firm employs about 15 to 20 people year-round and, with the new drop screen products generating about 30 percent growth annually, the company is enjoying a five-year growth pattern.
From Vineyards to German Markets
“We help people because they have a challenge or a problem that we are there to solve. Our business succeeds from relationships built with everyone—from the leadership down to the installers,” Kevin says. “We talk to our team daily about how a customer will remember the experience over anything else. If our team is clean, kind and does a good job, they’ll be appreciated. It is all of those aspects that form the customer’s impression. That’s what they remember and discuss with others.”
The team’s goal is to identify a customer’s need and supply the right product to provide the best solution. If you’re late getting a product to a customer, they forget about that if the experience is good, he says. “We know they’ll like the products and it will fix their problem, but we want to make sure that their experience exceeds their expectations. We want to make the world rosy for them,” he says.
That’s what the firm did for Daniel’s Family Vineyard & Winery in McCordsville, Indiana, with the retractable top and sides on their second-level mezzanine around a large events hall. “They wanted to serve bigger event groups but needed a larger space. We built a Corradi Pergotenda retractable roof system that surrounds two sides of the hall to serve as overflow space for receptions,” Kevin says. Pergotenda is a sliding covering system patented by Corradi. It is made-to-measure and customizable to make outdoor spaces comfortable and enjoyable throughout the year. It offers a unique, elegant and modern solution to provide shade for outdoor spaces, and the retractable roof system gives the best of both worlds—indoor and out.
At the Christkindlmarkt in Carmel, Shade by Design stepped in to custom-make canopies out of red-and-white-striped fabric to match the company’s corporate branding and color palette. Most custom projects of this magnitude would take three to four months to complete, but with the fabric vendor’s help, the team turned it around in about 30 days—just in time for the annual German holiday market.
A Family Affair
When Tonya and Kevin first opened their business, their mother, Sandra Drake, served as their first seamstress, creating the first cover the firm ever sold, while working out of Kevin’s bedroom.
“Mom came in every day until two or three years ago, and she trained the other seamstresses,” Kevin says. “She made our clothes in high school and dad’s suits, so making awnings was a piece of cake for her. She even came back to help with the Christkindlmarkt project in 2017. Over the years, all of the family has been a part of the company at some time or another.”
As Shade by Design grew and began manufacturing their own products, the team began servicing more commercial clients—like the local franchise for McAlister’s Deli. “Our business just mushroomed into much bigger things,” Kevin says.
“The key to our success and longstanding tenure in the industry is how we distinguish ourselves,” Kevin adds. “We are very proud to create customized products and retractable products that bring value to our clients every day. We always meet or exceed the customers’ expectations.”