Pete Weingartner went to college to study design and didn’t necessarily plan on joining the family business, Queen City Awning in Cincinnati, Ohio, as a third-generation custom fabricator. “I guess I figured I was going to work for a bigger company, designing product,” Weingartner says. “I did a little bit of that, but I decided that I would like a smaller business.” At the time, Queen City had about 10-15 employees—just the right size.
Weingartner started out in sales, learning by doing. “I focused on what I thought was most important—the design. But there are a lot of other things that go into a custom product,” he says.
He did some fabrication and installation, but was mainly overseeing projects. “That was a benefit,” he says, “seeing the whole project from start to finish.”
Today, as president of the company, Weingartner says he feels fortunate that he was able to be involved at the time. “I learned a lot those first years. I think that’s what really helps me now, to look at the business from the customer’s point of view. I still do a little bit of design, working with customers directly.” Because he has ultimate responsibility for the whole company, he has to be involved “in a little bit of everything.” He enjoys interacting with the employees, “making sure that things work the way they want them to work.”
And, yes, there’s still excitement for him in the business, especially when a customer wants something “perhaps a little unusual, that isn’t cut-and-dried,” he says. “I remember the projects I’ve done that have been more creative.” From a sales standpoint, he likes the challenge of a competitive situation, “when you have to present your position and win that customer over.”
Beyond the business
As much as he likes being tested in his work life, he also says, “As I get older, I see the benefit of relaxing.” With two children in college and one in high school, Weingartner and his wife make a point of organizing a family outing when the older ones are home from school. This often involves outdoor activities, such as hikes with the family dog.
They’re also becoming avid bicycle hobbyists, taking advantage of Ohio’s extensive system of trails. “We do them more for enjoyment than anything. We’re really kind of getting into it. It’s just amazing some of the new bikes available,” he says. “It’s fun to explore the new advances.”
He also sees the value of his family’s long history of involvement in IFAI. “It’s hard to put it down on paper,” he says. “The people you meet, the help they offer—those are the kinds of experiences that I don’t know that you could get without belonging to a trade organization. Not only for your company, it’s a resource for your life. You talk to people in similar businesses, and they relate some of the issues they’re going through. More than likely you’ve gone through them. You’re not going to find them in a manual.”
It’s the 135th anniversary for Queen City Awning and a good many of those years have included a close relationship with IFAI, now in its 100th year. “We have a certificate hanging on the wall that says we became a member in 1930,” he says and quickly adds, “That’s before my time!”