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For One Local Company, Awnings Aren’t Just Window Dressing


Published March 12, 2018 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated March 15, 2018 at 12:49 p.m.

  • Courtesy Otter Creek Awnings
  • Retractable awning

We're not out of the woods with nor'easters yet, but pretty soon it'll be spring sunlight streaming down instead of snow. And as the temps heat up outside and in, so does business at Otter Creek Awnings.

Homeowners hoping to keep cool have looked to the Williston company for decades — and not just for products such as retractable awnings, deck canopies, umbrellas and solar shades. The biz is known for its exceptional customer service; in fact, it received a 2017 award for just that from Houzz, a popular online magazine about home design and improvement. The award is "based on several factors, including the number and quality of recent client reviews," according to the website. (Houzz names "best of" honors in design and photography, as well.)

Not getting a lot of service calls for repair or redo is another reflection of good service, as it suggests Otter Creek Awning's products are installed and working properly in the first place.

Todd Warren, who grew up in Georgia, Vt., has owned the company for 10 years and also owns Vermont Custom Closets. He lives in Burlington's New North End with his wife, Elizabeth. They have two college-age children.

By email, Warren told Nest more about Otter Creek Awnings, his thoughts about service and why we need awnings in the age of global warming.

Can you briefly describe your company and its history?

  • Courtesy Otter Creek Awnings
  • Window awning

Our company has evolved significantly over our 40-plus-year history. The founder, Max Eaton, started Otter Creek Awnings making canvas bags and small window awnings in the basement of his Middlebury home. Today we are one of the largest and most well-respected awning companies in the country. We specialize in awnings for both residential and commercial applications and are proud that the majority of our awnings are still manufactured right here in Vermont

Most important to our success over a long period of time is the amazing team that we have working at Otter Creek — some of them for over 35 years! That consistency and experience allow us to focus on creating a fun, friendly experience for our clients. Ultimately, it is our client who will determine how long we are in business.

What does the Houzz customer service award mean to you?

It validates and recognizes the time and energy we put into creating our customer experience. At Otter Creek, we are fond of saying, "It's not about the canvas." That simply means to us that the experience of our client is more important than the product itself. We think impeccable service is all about how we make a client feel.

After an awning is in place, what types of service calls do you typically get?

Fortunately, we do not get a lot of service calls, but when we do, it's generally for something minor that can be easily fixed. Service work takes a priority with us, especially in the summer months. Nobody wants to be without their awning for very long when the weather is good and the sun is hot.

Have you seen an increased interest in awnings in recent years as summers in Vermont have gotten hotter?

We have certainly seen an increase in our residential awning and solar shade business in recent years. Our designers think of themselves as solar-protection experts, and as the summers seem to be getting longer and hotter, people are definitely looking for more protection from the sun. I think we all also appreciate the potential health danger from overexposure to the sun. We're all looking for a cool, shady spot to enjoy the Vermont summers.

How do awnings help with energy efficiency?

Awnings and solar shades can have a significant impact on energy efficiency. Most traditional window treatments are on the interior and do not prevent the sun from hitting the glass, and therefore provide little help in cooling. Awnings and solar shades are generally designed to go on the exterior of the home and prevent the sun from hitting the glass; they can reduce interior temperatures by 15 to 20 percent. That is often the difference between turning the air conditioner on or not.

Do you have awnings at your home?

Yes, of course, we have several awnings and solar shades on our home. My wife and I just finished remodeling a home in Burlington, and outdoor living space is very important to us. We have retractable awnings over our deck and patio, along with retractable window awnings on our sunroom. The coolest one is a motorized exterior solar shade over our large picture window. With the touch of a button, you hear the faint hum of the motor as the fabric drops vertically down over the window, keeping the hot sun out but still allowing you to see the amazing view.

With several upcoming home shows — including the Vermont Home & Garden Expo — can you tell us what consumers can learn if they attend one?

Spring is the time for outdoor home improvements. One of the best places to get ideas and see what's new is a home show. Outdoor living is a very hot category right now, and at the shows you can meet folks who do landscaping, build decks and stone patios, sell outdoor furniture and, of course, awnings!

The original print version of this article was headlined "Cool Customers"