Wayne Austin serves as CEO of DeVenco Products, Decatur, GA. His father founded the company in 1939.
DeVenco Products: Maker Of Period Replication Window Blinds/Shutters Boasts Impressive Client List
Decatur, GA–Not many companies can boast that their products have made it into historically significant buildings, but DeVenco Products, based here, has made period replication window blinds and shutters for the U.S. Supreme Court, the Betsy Ross House, the University of Virginia, and over 30 different state houses across the nation. Making this feat particularly significant is the fact that the historical projects that DeVenco handles usually involve structures that were built in the 1800s – or earlier.
“Historical architecture is my passion,” said Wayne Austin, CEO of the 16-employee company, which was founded by his father, Earl Austin, in 1939. The company started out repairing wood and metal venetian blinds on government buildings in the Decatur area. When the younger Austin took over the company 45 years ago he revamped its business plan and began manufacturing blinds and shutters. “We designed our products to replicate the original designs from the 1800s,” said Austin.
Thomas Jefferson, for example, had designs and drawings of what he wanted his blinds and shutters to look like – including dimensions and spacing. “Many of our country’s founders had wooden blinds and shutters listed in their last wills and testaments,” Austin said, “so we started with Jefferson and things kind of took off from there.”
Cathy Bayne serves as president/secretary of DeVenco Products.
Today, Austin runs the company with his sister, President/Secretary Cathy Bayne, from a 30,000-square-foot plant that runs 40 hours per week. To make its products, the firm uses about 220,000 board feet of White and Yellow Pine annually. The latter works particularly well for creating shutters that look as if they were made in the 18th or 19th century, while the former is used to make blinds. And while some of DeVenco’s products are installed in historic buildings, others are used in new homes that replicate the historic homes of the 1700s and 1800s.
Austin said DeVenco stands out from its competitors because all of its products are made by hand, cut to custom specifications, and created from the ground up. “A lot of wooden blinds are popped out of molds and imported these days, but not ours,” Austin said. “We make a truly custom shutter or blind from scratch to match the client’s interior.” As proof, DeVenco’s manufacturing time is usually 5-6 weeks whereas the typical shutter can be turned out and ready to install within a week.
“We make about 3,600 sets of shutters and 2,400 wood blinds a year,” Austin said. Other products include wood porch shades, raised panel shutters, and Cedar exterior shutters. Orders typically come in via phone from all over the country to either Austin or Bayne, both of whom make up DeVenco’s sales force. The firm relies primarily on advertisements in historic magazines and an information-packed website to generate new orders.
DeVenco Products’ Office Manager Johanna Hillman is a critical point-of-contact for the business.
About three years ago, DeVenco began producing pocket shutters that are used primarily in homes in the Northeast – where older, masonry structures feature thick walls. “These homes usually have window pockets that shutters fold and completely disappear into,” Austin explained. “The raised panels then fold out and completely cover the window when needed.” When owners of brownstones in Boston and New York caught wind of DeVenco’s newest creation, they began calling to find out how they too could replace the worn out and/or nonexistent shutters in their historic homes. “We’ve seen a huge boom in demand for these items since introducing them,” said Austin.
Like most other manufacturing firms, DeVenco saw its share of lost business during the recent recession. Luckily, the company had a 4-year-long project on its roster right when the downturn hit hard in 2008. The project found DeVenco replacing 12’ X 8’ pocket blinds throughout the entire structure. “We restored the U.S. Supreme Court over a 4-year period from 2008-12,” said Austin. “We did one quadrant of the building every year for four years and quite frankly that may have been what pulled us through the recession.”
Today, with the economy slowly recovering and more commercial and residential owners considering upgrades for their historical structures, DeVenco is well positioned to continue its 75-year success streak.
Pictured are DeVenco’s customized arched shutters.
“The one thing that makes us unique is that no one else makes period replication blinds and shutters,” said Austin. “While a cabinetmaker may be able to handle the work, we’re the only company that makes and advertises pure replication wooden blinds, shutters, porch shades, and raised panels. That’s our selling point.”