Jim Feeler: 40 Years With Victor Shade
For his 40th anniversary, we spoke with him to get his perspective on what it has been like to work for Victor Shade and how the window treatment market has changed over the years:
Q: How long have you been with Victor Shade?
A: For 40 years, since 1977.
Q: What is your position?
A: Right now, I’m the cleaning & repair manager.
Q: And is that what you’ve always done, or have you worked a variety of positions over the years?
A: I’ve basically done everything. Installing, sales, repairs, cleaning, building vinyl roller shades, you name it.
Q: What have been the biggest changes you’ve seen in the window treatment industry over the years?
A: The largest change has been the complexity of the shades and just how much nicer and better quality of materials are used.
Q: Does that make it more difficult for cleaning and repair?
A: Yes, it’s a lot more complex and time-consuming to repair something and to install it too.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of your job?
A: I think the challenge of doing repairs. I like challenges, and every time you do a repair for any kind of product we have here, you meet some kind of a challenge. And that makes work exciting. And also, when you see the customer’s face after they see it done, and how happy they are makes me feel good too.
Q: A lot of people likely don’t think about their window shades often. What are some of the common repairs you have to do?
A: Mainly putting new cords in the shades and rollers and things like that.
Q: I would think that most people would find it easier just to replace their blinds when they break. Is that not the case most of the time?
A: Not really — I think people are so excited when we can repair it because it’s such a cost-[saver].
Q: What are the biggest challenges associated with your job?
A: I think, well, it’s really hard to explain it. It’s just a normal, everyday job and trying to keep the people happy and the customers satisfied with what I do with the products. That to me is the biggest challenge.
Q: How has more modern technology like motorization and making everything cordless played into the repair process?
A: It makes it more difficult because it makes everything more complex, so we have to be able to meet the standards of the companies. It is a lot more difficult to deal with.
Q: It’s rare for someone to stay with a company for so long these days – what is it about Victor Shade that has kept you around?
A: I enjoy my job; I love what I am doing. I have been here and have seen a lot, but I just enjoy what I’m doing. My favorite is what I’m doing now, which is repairs, but I still – the people I’ve worked with have been good to me; all my employers have been good to me. I’ve been through three different parts of the family and they’ve all been really good. That’s why I’m here.
Q: In your opinion, what sets Victor Shade apart from your competitors?
A: I think the whole complete process we have from sales, to installing, to being able to give them the benefit of the opportunity to also do repairs for them if they have problems, things like that. Everything’s complete. We are just a complete organization. And we have some good people here willing to work as a team.
Q: What have you noticed about the changing styles and trends of window treatments over the years?
A: I think they went more from the roller shades and metal shades to more of the faux wood and real wood as far as blinds. And the Duettes and cellular shades have really taken over. Over the last 15-20 years, the cellular shades have really been the general marketing area, which is a big difference from how it used to be.
Q: And are those any more difficult to repair or replace than traditional blinds?
A: They are more difficult to repair, but as far as replacing? No – they are probably a little bit easier to replace. But as far as repairs, they are more difficult because of the complexity of them. There’s also a lot more parts and little plastic bits to them.
Q: As an expert in window treatment repair and restoration, what is the biggest piece of advice you would give to help people’s blinds and shades last longer in their homes?
A: Be gentler with them. Read the instructions and do what the company tells [you] to do. There are instructions that come with it about the cleaning and about operating the shades or blinds, and most people don’t even read that. You need to do that so you know how to properly operate them.
Q: What is the most common reason that you see for people needing their blinds repaired?
A: User error, definitely. You have some that would be manufacturing error, where the manufacturer or fabricator have problems. But most of the time, its user error.
Q: What kinds of things are people doing to break their blinds or shades that they could try to avoid?
A: The easiest would be being gentler than they’re used to. It’s like anything else – you have to be gentle with it if you want them to last a long time. Once you start getting rough with them or not having respect for them, they’re going to fail you.
Q: Repairing blinds and working in this industry for 40 years and with Victor Shade for 40 years, you must have seen a lot of different people with stories come through the door. Are there any particular oddities that stand out?
A: No, not really. It’s all the same – you get some really nice, kind people who are really pleasant and then you get some who are not. You get a bit of everything. I’ve seen a lot of stars –we’ve had like Whitey Herzog — people like that come in. A lot of doctors, a lot of lawyers, we’ve done a lot of work for Blues players, the Cardinals – you name it.
Q: What are some things that people don’t understand or underestimate when it comes to changing blinds or getting new window treatments?
A: A lot of it is, people don’t understand how the price has changed. It’s a lot more expensive now than it used to be, but everything else in society has gone up too, so that makes a difference. Also, they are a lot more fragile of a product now, but it also looks a lot nicer and more contemporary. It just looks better, but it can also be a little overwhelming because there is so much to choose from.
Q: Why would you recommend coming to a company that specializes in window treatments like Victor Shade as opposed to just going to a box store like Home Depot or Lowes?
A: I think it’s the relationship we have that’s more family-oriented with our customers, and then we can give them the complete service. There’s nothing we can’t provide for them from sales, to installing to measurements to everything. When you go to Lowe’s, you’re not going to have that – you just going to have the product and that’s it. The big difference is that relationship and that family friendship we are able to have with our customers.
Q: What are your favorite blinds?
A: Silhouettes – that’s what I have in my house. I don’t have them motorized, but I’ll get that at some point. I’ve had Silhouettes since we got our new house, and I love them. They’re durable, very usable and they are just really nice.