Some days I am just so gosh-darned pleased with myself, and today is one of those days — due to this discovery. Last weekend at the Ohana Luau on the Lake tiki fest, David and I drove a mile into downtown Lake George to check it out. There were lots of groovy 50s and 60s motels, so we took a long walk exploring. At one of them I spotted these really cool aluminum patio umbrellas and, oh my goodness, did they not ever look like they came straight from the 1950s? Well, it turns out that — they are straight from 1956 — and they are still in production — and you can buy one if you want.
The company that manufactures and sells them is named Sundrella (yes, with a “d”), and it’s been based in Phoenix since 1956 — when it got started building this very same 701 aluminum umbrella (above). In fact, according to Kaycie, a most wonderful manager in the retail area at Sundrella, the company built only 701 umbrellas for the next 22 years, until 1978, when the current owners bought the company.
The new owners then began expanding the product line to include chairs, tables and other outdoor funiture. There’s a broad portfolio today.
All these many years, its main clientele has been commercial outlets — hotels, motels, resorts, and for a long while but not lately: McDonalds. “Oh yeahhhhh,” I hear you all saying right along with me: “McDonalds. I remember these now.” Can you believe they are still available?
You might see a new one like this at a Dairy Queen – still an active customer. Did you know that Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owns Dairy Queen? I LOVE DQ!
Okay, not to burst your bubble. But, these do not come cheap. Kaycie says that the factory-direct pricing through year-end is $517. And then, there is shipping. These suckers weigh in at 55 lbs. and need to be cemented into the ground. So, gulp, sit down when you hear the shipping cost. These are serious umbrellas.
Nonetheless, they are wicked cool.
They are MADE IN THE USA, hurray. They are all-aluminum and don’t rust. Just shine them up yearly with: Turtle Wax. The 40 “veins” can be powder-coat-painted in your choice of 18 mix-and-match Charlie Brown sweater stripe colors. And Kaycie says there are even some discontinued colors — like turquoise and peach — still stashed away. Turquoise? Peach? You know we are all over those.
If you want some retro seating to go with, Kaycie recommends the Arroyo line (above). These were the first designs following the 1978 acquisition.
These are vintage chairs at the same place in as the umbrellas, along the hotel/motel boardwalk in Lake George. These babies last forever, and in fact, Kaycie says they get folks coming in all the time with chairs that are 30 years old and just need new vinyl straps. If you’re into retro renovation, I bet you’re into reduce, reuse, recycle, too. It pays to buy stuff that lasts — and it’s amazing, really, the quality you often see in postwar products of even the most humble origins.
Where to get them:
Original link in 2009 story: AZ Umbrellas