By Shari Valenta
It was a hot summer day in Paonia, Colo., and Ron and Jo Edmondson were sitting under their European style pergola. When the couple went inside for a break from the heat, they started surfing the Web for patio umbrellas. Their lives have never been the same.
The Edmondsons now own ShadeScapes USA, a company that sells high-end umbrellas imported from New Zealand and Belgium. Clients include businesses, such as resorts and restaurants, as well as private parties. ShadeScapes offers two umbrella brands, ShadeMakers and Paraflex. The Edmondsons started out importing ShadeMakers, which are designed by Capt. Russell Bond, a sailing enthusiast.
“One day, Captain Bond was sitting under an umbrella in Europe and said, ‘I could do better than this,'” remarked Jo Edmondson. “So he designed the Isla, which was his signature umbrella style. His goal was to make the finest umbrella in the world, and he’s reached it.”
ShadeMaker umbrellas are made with quality materials, much like those used for the sail in a sailboat. A winch winds open the canopy, much like the winch for a sail on a boat. The pole, called a mast, is made out of anodized aluminum that’s resistant to saltwater. Some umbrellas also come with pulley systems. The fabric is awning-grade, 100 percent solution-dyed acrylic canvas, which is water, oil, dirt and mildew resistant. According to Edmondson, this grade of fabric wasn’t typically found on umbrellas in the U.S. until ShadeScapes began importing ShadeMakers.
“With ordinary umbrellas, the wood breaks down, the powder coating wears off or the canopy tears,” she said. “Most people aren’t used to buying shade that will last forever. In five to ten years, the canopy may need to be replaced, but the structure itself is good for a lifetime.”
The umbrellas come with square or octagon-shaped canopies in a variety of colors and sizes.
“When we imported the line, we knew we had to Americanize the product,” said the inspired businesswoman. “So, instead of the 10 canopy colors offered in New Zealand, we offered 80.”
Customers also requested different finishes for the frames.
“The product originally came with one standard finish, but some clients wanted a rich, bronze look,” she said. “We decided to offer more colors and finishes.”
Styles include three traditional center post options, six cantilever designs and one hanging pergola-type style.
These sophisticated designs aren’t cheap; they start at $895 and can run as much as $8,000. This year, the Edmondsons added the Paraflex, a less expensive umbrella, but also of higher quality than most umbrellas. It starts at $698.
The Edmondsons used to live in Denver, working for large corporations. Their skill set is complimentary; Ron Edmondson’s background is in accounting and management. He has 25 years experience in property management. Jo Edmondson also has 25 years experience, as a sales and database marketing professional, helping launch several start-up companies.
In 2001 the two decided to get away from the bustle of the city and settled into the small town of Paonia in western Colorado. In 2002, the couple started selling ShadeMakers out of their home. They now have an office, warehouse and six employees.
“Dealing with people around the world is interesting, challenging and fun,” exclaimed Edmondson. “But I do it because the umbrellas we sell are really the finest in the world.”
For more information, call 970-527-7070 or 866-997-4233 (toll free), or visit [http://www.shadescapesusa.com] and [http://www.paraflex-umbrella.com.]