Orange City, Iowa – Birth of Shop At Home Selling
How DeVries Drapery, in a town of 2,000 people sold over $2,000,000 in 2020 dollars
In the mid-1960s I traveled the Midwest for Westport Fabrics, in Kansas City. Westport was owned by me and a partner named Harvey Nudelman. Harvey later became president of Fabricut for over 40 years. Between us we called on more than 2,000 drapery specialists in the Midwest from the Canadian border to the gulf of Mexico. Draperies were the primary window products in the 1960s. Wood blinds petered out in the 1950s. Mini-blinds had yet to blossom for baby-boomers in the 1970s. A typical business would sell $50,000 a year – over $400,000 in today’s dollars.
Looking for new dealers, I called on DeVries Drapery, in Orange City, IA, a Dutch community of 2000 in northwest Iowa. As we got to know each other, I asked Mrs. DeVries her sales volume. She answered, “About $300,000 – over $2 Million today! I remember saying, “People must come from miles around to visit your store.” “Oh no, she replied, my salesman, Bill Roseboom, takes yard samples of bolts of fabric and puts them in the trunk of his car. Then he goes out to the farmers up to 60 miles away, shows the samples, takes the measurements and writes the order.” I was amazed! Neither Harvey nor I had ever seen such a business in all our travels.
I was inspired by the DeVries / Roseboom model and in 1969 gave it life as the first franchising company selling draperies with a Shop At Home strategy. In 1973, as more products were added, a car trunk wouldn’t work any longer. In December, we rolled out a unique plumbers van with bold trademark branding as a solution. It accomplished two objectives: first, a way to carry all the samples we needed, not only draperies, but even carpet and wallcovering. Second, it became the foundation of awareness so homeowners would know our name and the products we sold. Today, with expanded window products of blinds, shades, shutters and draperies, plus automation and outside window products, the professional sample-van concept generates upwards of half-billion dollars in Shop At Home window product sales. It is used by independent business owners and franchises throughout North America.