SHARON – When a business reaches its natural end, people tend to say that it folded. But in Grimm’s Awnings case it would be more apt to say the business is rolling up its last awning.
The company on Smith Avenue in Sharon will close in mid-September after serving the area for 89 years. Co-owner Jerry Grimm said while the decision is a hard one, it’s time for him to retire.
While the business and its building have been up for sale since 2009, there were no takers, Grimm added. Housed in a residential area, the company’s building isn’t suited for most businesses. What’s more, the awning and canvas business has changed.
“There’s not the demand for this type of work in the Shenango Valley anymore,’’ Grimm said.
In addition to awnings, the business handles boat covers, patio overhangs and other products requiring canvas. A seasonal business, the tricky part is being able to generate enough income to get through the winter months.
“It’s not easy to do that,’’ Grimm said. “And you’re always under pressure to get the work done in time and still have a quality product.’’
The business has been in his family since it was started by Jerry’s grandfather, Walter S. Grimm, in 1926. He was succeeded by second generation Lloyd, Dan, Bill, Elmer and Ralph. Jerry is the third generation and his daughter, Kim Hughes, represents the fourth generation.
In addition to the family, Ted Snyderwine has been a longtime employee, working 55 years with the company.
This wasn’t the first venture for the Grimm family, noted Jerry. His grandfather started a unique trade during during the 1920s – which was during Prohibition.
“He made copper and tin materials for moonshiners operating in Masury,’’ he said. “It was later on that he got into awnings.’’
Grimm started in the business at the tender age of 13. After doing a six-year stint in the Navy and the Navy Reserves, he settled back home in the Shenango Valley with the family business.
“This was when you had Westinghouse, GATX, Sharon Steel and Sawhill going strong,’’ he recalled. “I thought I could work here and then retire in my 50s.’’
Like other businesses, Grimm’s had problems to contend with. A fire in the store in 1966 heavily damaged the second floor, where the materials are and the real work is done.
“We didn’t shut down,’’ he said. “We used grandmother’s house next door as our office and did our manufacturing on Budd Street in Sharon.’’
The family eventually started a heating and cooling business, and in 1992 cousin Wally Grimm took it over. That business, Grimm Heating & Cooling in Sharpsville, is independent from the awning company and in no way is affected by its closing.
What most people don’t realize is that coverings for air conditioners, outdoor furniture and granite tops seen in patios require exact measurements, said Hughes.
“A lot of these patios are customized and that also requires customized covers,’’ she said.
Some people try to cut corners by using cheaper grade canvas produced overseas, she added. Such merchandise isn’t sold at Grimm’s.
“Everything we sell here is made in the USA,’’ Hughes said.