Brothers and partners

For 109 years Chilson’s Shop has been serving the Western Massachusetts area. Today it’s run by co-owners and brothers, Edward and David Ghareeb. In nearby Springfield, Mass., their grandfather, Assad Ghareeb, started Pioneer Shade & Awning in 1940, and was joined by his two sons, Ed Sr. and Ernest. When Ed Sr. bought Chilson’s in 1960, the two businesses combined to offer both indoor and outdoor shade products to their customers.

“The first thing I was handed was a broom,” David says. “Back in high school, I used to take the bus from school to the shop and work after school, making window shades, and sweeping the curb.”

He did “a few other odd part-time jobs,” he says, but otherwise went right into the business after studying business administration in college. Although his role today is the administrative side of the business, he knows his way around the shop, too, including layout, cutting and installing, and says that “the only thing I cannot do is sewing,” he says. “In our family you worked your way up.”

Personal service

He says working in a family business is “an interesting dynamic,” with the two brothers dividing up management responsibilities. Edward is in charge of sales; David handles marketing and production, and his wife, Kim, works with them part-time. The fourth generation is already learning the trade, with Ed’s two sons, Nathan and Nicholas, working part-time, as well.

“We’re a family business,” David says. “You’re not dealing with a 1-800 number; you’re dealing with an owner, usually, or an employee who has been here a long time.”

The company employs about 12 people, who have been with them from two years all the way up to 45 years, so he doesn’t need to look over their shoulders in the shop. “They know how to do it right,” he says. “We pride ourselves on making a very high quality product. That’s one of the things that people know about us.”

Chilson’s continues to provide custom canopies and awnings, as well as the window fashions that were the core of Pioneer Shade’s business. These include manufacturing roll-up window shades and serving as a distributor for many other kinds of window shading products, including blinds, draperies and shutters.

“In our market, we offer shop-at-home service,” he says, meeting with customers in their home or business. “We provide everything from start to finish.”

Family time—away from work

David loves to play golf, although he doesn’t get to play as much as he used to, and maintains that he used to be a good golfer. With a young and busy family, time away from work is often taken up with his nine-year-old son’s and eight-year-old daughter’s activities, including soccer, basketball, dance and gymnastics.

They also enjoy traveling as a family and recently had breakfast with Benjamin Franklin—yes, that Mr. Franklin—at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. And even though they’re right in the middle of Boston Red Sox territory, he’s a Yankees fan and takes in a couple of games each season. “Mickey Mantle is the reason. I always liked Mickey Mantle,” he says. “I saw him play at the end of his career.”

Local connections

The family has a long association with IFAI, finding their way to the organization through their active involvement in local associations. Both have served as North East Canvas Products Association (NECPA) president, and Edward has served on IFAI’s Professional Awning Manufacturers Association (PAMA) board. They’ll both be at Expo, too, “for the networking and connecting.”

By Janet Preus, editor, Specialty Fabrics Review