A Centennial Celebration in the Works
BH Awning shines on the way to its 100th year with bright new outlook
BH Awning in Benton Harbor, Michigan, has fabricated and installed commercial and residential awnings for nearly a century. Jason Krupinski, General Manager/Owner, is the newcomer to this centenarian business. “I recently acquired the company from Marilyn Dill who had co-owned BH Awning with her husband, Chuck, for about 51 years. As far as I know, I am only the third or fourth owner,” Krupinski says.
One Hundred Years
In 1922, the firm started off making tents and delved into a couple of diverse items at different times during its long tenure. At one point in its history, BH Awning constructed tarps, offered tent rentals and installed indoor blinds and shades along with exterior awnings. “It’s neat to drive around and see some of the things done in the more recent past,” Krupinski says. BH Awning completed all the awnings in Waldo Stadium, which is Western Michigan University’s football arena. It also installed the tunnel that ushers the players onto the field.
“Large and small commercial awnings comprise our core business now, and we take pride in being an industry leader,” Krupinski says. With sharpened focus on exterior products, BH Awning’s scope includes fabricating and installing retractable awnings and custom-made awnings for residential customers. For commercial entities, it provides canopies, exterior power shades and shade curtains.
“We’re seeing an increased interest in shade curtains in particular,” he adds. “They are 100% custom made in any configuration required for the designated area and can be mounted in a multitude of ways. Not only are shade curtains effective in providing a nice space for people to enjoy, but they’re also functional and appealing to the eye,” he says.
The massive multiday industrial projects and the mom-and-pop jobs benefit from the creativity offered by the BH Awning crew. According to Krupinski, they can help a business stand out and make the customer feel good about itself in the process. “There really isn’t much that the team can’t do to help commercial and residential clients keep the sun or rain at bay as well as make their buildings look unique and attractive,” Krupinski says. “I am certain we wouldn’t have reached the milestone we’re at without the staff that BH Awning has had in the past and maintains today,” he continues. Everyone stayed on when he purchased the firm. Steve Dill, the Chief Installer and a relative of the previous owner, has been with BH Awning for 36 years. Weld Shop Manager Gary Igert has been with the group for 20 years. “The current tenured staff of 10 has close to 90 years’ combined experience. I bring the average way down,” Krupinski says, and he laughs. “It’s an amazing, diverse group of people, and we are expanding.”
Learning the Ropes
Being the new owner, Krupinski has spent a lot of time immersing himself in what this industry entails. He works alongside the group: up on lifts, doing installations, learning what goes into the fabrication and the sew shop. He aims to completely understand the business model. “Coming from a military and corporate background, this is something new to me, so I have dived in headfirst. Not only do I want to understand the industry and BH Awning in particular, but I also want my people to know that the person that bought this organization is not going to sit in his office and expect them to do more, sell more and go faster. I take an interest and get out and work alongside of them,” Krupinski says.
As an aspiring entrepreneur, Krupinski says he has always wanted to have his own company. When he was younger, he knew that he wasn’t ready. After finishing his degree during his 15 years of service in the Marines, he realized he wanted to make sure that he had the proper skill set to ensure a seamless transition. When he left active duty, Krupinski wound up in sales leadership for a large medical device firm. “I learned a lot in corporate America, both positive and negative, the do’s and the don’ts. But I didn’t want to continue working in a corporate environment,” he says. “I wanted to do something impactful, to be able to effect change directly. I wanted to manage my own company.”
Then, about a year before acquiring BH Awning, Krupinski was at a point in his life where he was ready to make a change. “It was the right time for me, so I started looking for established and viable possibilities. I came across BH Awning on a website. I don’t know why; I just got that intuition that this was a good fit,” he says. He met with Marilyn Dill a couple of times. After completing his due diligence, he realized that this was not something that was in distress. It was not being sold before the bottom fell out. It was in good shape, but Chuck had passed away and Marilyn needed to pass the torch.
“In the future, I would like to see the next Krupinski generation take the lead at BH Awning. My desire to keep it in the family resonated with Marilyn,” Krupinski says. She had four or five offers and she chose Krupinski to take over. “It is a great business with a terrific staff. Like any other organization after 50-plus years of ownership, things almost begin to run on autopilot and sometimes a new person at the helm rejuvenates the energy,” he adds.
Innovation and Expansion
“We’re implementing new technological methods to streamline our processes. Our objective—exceptional productivity from the second a quote is given and a bid comes in, to the day that awning actually gets installed,” he says. “Internal innovations have resulted in cutting costs and wait time for the consumer and allow us to serve our expanded region efficiently.”
As one of the biggest Mapes Canopies, LLC dealers in the Midwest, BH Awning’s projects reach out to four or five states. “In one week, the team may spend time working in Dublin, Ohio, then head just south of Chicago. For a couple of days, guys will be in Three Rivers, Michigan, and then move on to the Detroit area. We are a regional company, and our region is pretty extensive,” Krupinski says.
Depending on the scope of a project, it may take a day or two of fabrication in-house while installation takes one to two hours. Other projects take days or a week or more to fabricate in-house. An installation of a custom order requiring a lot of supplies and inventory can take longer.
A typical work schedule may include putting awnings and/or fascia on the front of a customer’s home, a new Amazon store, other large enterprises, strip malls, restaurants and specialty shops.
“BH Awning especially likes to partner with boutique and small corporations to help them stand out from their competition and make their shop or their restaurant ‘pop’ for the public eye,” says Krupinski. Recently, Darling Boutique in Michigan City, Indiana, presented BH Awning with some creativity issues. The owners wanted a standard cloth and metal awning on the front of the building. The challenge was not only that they wanted to reinvent their look so they would stand out from neighboring shops, but they also had a limited span of time to get it done. After working closely with them and juggling some things around to meet their time frame, Krupinski believes the results worked phenomenally well. “The fact that we were able to do that speaks volumes to the breadth of what we can offer,” Krupinski says. “We wound up with a delighted customer and a happy crew.”
The BH Awning team also enjoys working with homeowners that have spaces they want transformed into great entertainment areas for friends and family. “Customizing everything we do to fit the needs of our customers is a source of pride for us,” Krupinski says. People have needed help with problems such as water pooling or the sun making an area unbearably hot or wanting something aesthetically appealing. These situations cause an otherwise nice space to be unusable at times. “Our main concern is to delve deep into what the customer’s needs really are and then we create and implement solutions,” Krupinski says.
Sharing the Benefits
Giving back to the community is important to Krupinski. “We’ve taken an active role in supporting youth sports. It is worthwhile to give back,” he says. The leagues are run on sponsors, donations and fundraisers. BH Awning sponsors the Vicksburg, Michigan, Little League, Vicksburg Rocket Football and Portage Central High School’s football team. “Kids should have the ability to play sports because of all that it brings—cooperation, camaraderie and a sense of accomplishment,” he says.
Those same elements are exemplified at BH Awning. “The strength of BH Awning is a mesh of new vision and energy coupled with the rock-solid tenure of its employees. The knowledge and history of the people who have worked here have made this company’s 100-year run a success,” Krupinski says.
“One hundred years is a major milestone—a significant achievement. We celebrate all that BH Awning has been, all that it is and all that it will be,” he says. “The future is bright.”