For our final story in our Beauti-Vue Products Corp. miniseries, we’ll start at … the beginning: A history of the company.
Another goal of my recent visit to Beauti-Vue, based in Bristol, Wisconsin, was to learn about the history of the company and the evolution of the window covering business from Stormy Grumbeck, the current owner of Beauti-Vue. Stormy has been a part of the company in one way or another for most of his life, starting as a young boy when he would spend time after school and on weekends helping his father, company co-founder John Grumbeck.
While much has changed for both the window coverings industry and Beauti-Vue since their founding in 1947, Stormy says that two things have always been a constant: Beauti-Vue has always offered custom painted woven wood shades and the company has always been owned by a Grumbeck. Plus — according to Stormy, Beauti-Vue was at the epicenter of the woven wood blind industry.
Beauti-Vue gets its start in 1947
The Beauti-Vue Products Corp. was founded in 1947 by brothers John and Victor Grumbeck — Stormy’s father and uncle — in Chicago, Illinois. According to Stormy, Beauti-Vue got its start making cafe curtains and cornices out of matchstick bamboo material. The move to full-size window coverings resulted from a bit of a happy accident: A customer came into the shop and asked if they could make her a custom wooden shade, which they happily did. When the shade was finished, they displayed it in their showroom for a few days until the customer could pick it up. Meanwhile, other customers coming in and out and walking by the shop window took notice. They loved the blind, too. It became so popular that soon, they were getting orders for the woven wooden shades left and right, which Stormy believes was the beginning of the woven wood shade industry.
By 1953, demand for Beauti-Vue’s products caused it to outgrow its Chicago store. Since both John and Victor had summer homes in Wisconsin — not far from the site of their current plant — the brothers decided to move production of their window shades there, while keeping the offices in Chicago.
During the next few decades, the popularity of the “alternate window coverings” business meant that the company had to build additions several times. By this time, they had also moved the office up from Chicago. By the mid 1970s, their building was again too small, and it was clear that the company would need to move yet again into a larger space with more room to expand if, so they began construction on the first of three 20,000 square foot buildings at their current location in Bristol, Wisconsin.
A timeline of window treatments at Beauti-Vue
- Beauti-Vue got its start selling plain wood matchstick bamboo blinds in their Chicago, Illinois, corner shop back in 1947. They still sell this style today!
- Next, they started selling matchstick bamboo painted or stained a solid color. Beauti-Vue had several colors to choose from or could do a custom color for an extra $10.
- Above: Starting in the late 1950 and running through 1969, they started offering painted patterns for their wood blinds. To create these patterns, they would first paint the blind a solid color of the customer’s choice. Next, they created a stencil using a piece of Masonite on which the pattern had been drawn and painstakingly cut out with a jigsaw — a relatively new power tool at the time, which John Grumbeck had purchased from a German salesman for the specific purpose of making these patterned templates for painting their wooden shades. Using the completed Masonite pattern stencil, they would place it over top of the wooden shades and spray paint through the stencil and onto the shades, thus creating the patterns. Stormy remembers that when he was about eight years old, it was his job to clean the paint off of the Masonite stencil boards using his Boy Scout pocket knife — ensuring the template didn’t get too gunked up with paint to deliver a crisp stencil. The Masonite panels didn’t last forever, since they eventually suffered from too much paint build up. They would then need to be remade, which was a time intensive process.
- Today the factory still custom paints or stains the woven wood blinds, though they no longer offer stenciled patterns. If you are interested in having wooden blinds painted a custom color, all you need to do is send a color swatch — fabric, paint sample, etc — and they can match it.
- In the mid-1960s, Beauti-Vue became a distributor of 1″ mini blinds in about five colors.
- In the early 1970s, Beauti-Vue began making retro woven wood shades using wood slats and various styles of yarn, weaving them together principally at their plants in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. They also did special orders at their plant in Wisconsin. Roman shades became very popular from this point on, and are are still a popular choice today, although the yarny woven woods went out of style.
- In the late 1970s, they began making Verosol shades.
- In the late 1970s, the company also started custom cloth window shades at their Wisconsin plant.
- In the early 1980s, Beauti-Vue began making 1″ metal mini blinds and honeycomb shades in their Bristol, WI plant.
- The company ended their own manufacturing in Wilkes-Barre in the early 1980s.
- They ended their own manufacturing of materials in Wisconsin in the mid-to-late 1980s. Stormy says that by the 1980s, America was seeing a surge of imports from Asia, and simply could not compete with the low prices for materials made there.
- Today: The company continues as a fabricator of custom-made window treatments to individuals and businesses through their factory in Bristol, Wisconsin. While the materials are imported, all the fabrication is done in -house. And, Beauti-Vue Products Corp. is staffed almost entirely by family, plus two non-related staff members.