I’m Sam Walters, one of two partners behind Drapes'n Shades.

I look forward to sharing my background and hope you enjoy a brief story about how my dog and I became acquainted with Bruce Riddiford, the original owner of Drapes’n Shades, and how our shared passion for customer service (and dogs!) led me to become actively involved in the window treatment business.

To begin with, I was semi-retired when Bruce and I first met and got to know each other some time ago while walking our dogs . I learned that he owned AWC-Automated Window Coverings since 1980 and produced a full range of custom-designed window treatments, both motorized and manually-operated. It seems that back in the day, motorized drape and shading systems were almost exclusively used in commercial and theatrical settings – considered by many as a residential luxury accessible only by those who had the money to spend.

Over the many hours of dog-walking and conversation that followed, we became good friends, as did our wives (and our dogs!). Interestingly, our discussions always drew similar conclusions, especially with respect to specific factors that are essential to growing and sustaining a successful business. We agreed about the critical significance of making commitments and keeping them, of exceeding client expectations in terms of product quality and exemplary customer service – both before and after the sale. It came as no surprise that I began to find myself both enticed and intrigued by our shared understanding of what real, genuine value meant to successfully running a business...and I told him.

So, on his invitation, I spent some time in his factory getting familiar with the window treatment industry, the products and his personal operating style. And after several weeks, I found myself actually considering the viability of making an honorable and sustainable living from it, seeking opinion from people I knew and trusted. However, to be fair, the fact that Bruce insisted on treating me every day to every great lunch spot in the area also may have impacted my thinking! In any case, the rest, as they say, is history (however, the extra six pounds I put on remains present!)

My business background is deeply-rooted in retailing, having grown up in a family-owned jewellery business in Guelph, Ontario back in the early 1960’s. At the time we decided to sell off the business in 1993, I was the CEO of Walters Jewellers, managing a fifty-store operation across Canada. I continued to remain active, first as a retail business consultant and sales trainer, and then, for many years, as one of several partners with a national liquidation sales event group. If you’re interested, a more detailed profile can be found on my LinkedIn Page.

Like most businesses today, the window treatment industry is not without its challenges, the most important of which speaks to managing our clients’ expectations in the face of shifting, generalized public perceptions of credibility -- as a seasoned retailer, this was the one nagging thing that would keep me up at night. In addition to an abundance of circulating misinformation perpetuated by self-appointed social media product-mavens, there are dozens of fly-by-night window treatment companies that come and go every year, usually with the same owners closing and then re-opening ‘under new management’ with a different name, only to shut down again months later -- usually about the time their customers start calling to complain that their “60%-80% off” product was beginning to discolour, warp and self-destruct under the constant UV ray exposure from the sun.  Sadly, with all the new sub-divisions popping up everywhere, this has become a common occurrence, one which tends to make for a very confusing marketplace for all (legitimately) concerned. 

Yet, despite this, the most impressive thing about Drapes’n Shades is how we’ve managed to overcome these types of challenges, maintain our corporate dignity and achieve a consistent level of sustainability. Of course, the fact that we offer genuine value with our Factory-Direct Pricing remains a significant customer service cornerstone that provides exceptional value (and our interior designers love it!). But just as significant is how Drapes’n Shades has cultivated its presence and leadership in the window treatment marketplace by demonstrating a capable responsiveness to constantly evolving fashion trends and technological changes, both within the industry and outside. Consequently, and particularly where motorization is concerned, we find ourselves as a window treatment supplier and consultant to various brand-name competitors, many of whom are incapable (or unwilling) to join the growing technology movement towards motorization and smart-home innovation.

It’s also very rewarding to find that many of our interior designer customers invite us to work directly with their clients, not just to help select their drapes, roller shades, blinds and cellular shades, but for those who demand specific, up-to-date technological information and hands-on know-how to satisfy their need to stay current with the latest cutting-edge technology in smart-home system and network integration. And after a wordy description like that, I think its suffice to say, you just can’t plug these things into the wall and expect them to work! Being qualified as a motorization expert truly requires a thorough understanding of what the overall system requires to work effectively, right down to recognizing specific voltage, connection and wiring requirements. And with all due respect, many electricians today simply don’t have the practical exposure and hands-on experience to handle such tasks, never mind keep up with the rapid changes in technology -- it's also why Bruce is highly regarded by many builders and contractors as "the electrician's electrician"!

As such, our business philosophy is centered around earning your business, and not simply taking your money -- because at the end of the day, whether you’re buying drapes or diamonds, getting real value for your money has everything to do with the actual quality of the products and services themselves – whereas “perceived value” tends to be price-based and can be more equated with imaginative hyperbole. And, to be candid (or sound arrogant for which I make no apologies), the inescapable truth is: “better” does cost more to make… and we would much prefer to explain the benefits of the quality, instead of making apologies for its absence. And it’s this honest, straight-forward approach of supporting clients to make better, value-based decisions is what many of our clients say is what puts Drapes’n Shades at the top of their list, as it did mine!

So, if you’re still reading…thank-you! And if you know someone who can benefit from our expertise in motorized and custom manufactured window coverings in Toronto and the GTA, I invite you to get in touch and call me directly at 416.505.3435. And, although still a work in progress (does it ever end?) please check out our re-designed website at www.drapesnshades.ca

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