How The Shade Store Shook Up A Stodgy Industry And Surpassed $100 Million In Sales

Explore this investment 11.05.17

Amy Feldman Forbes Staff 

Custom shades are the epitome of an old-world business: labor-intensive, relationship-driven, tough to scale. The Shade Store is trying to bring the industry into the modern era with mass customization and national reach. Launched in 2006, the chain now has 58 showrooms, a partnership with upscale home-goods chain Restoration Hardware, collaborations with designers Jonathan Adler and Nate Berkus, and more than $100 million in annual revenue. Chief executive Adam Gibbs, 44, who comes from a family that has been in the home décor business for generations, founded the business in its current form with two brothers and a cousin. In a conversation that has been edited and condensed, Gibbs spoke about the challenges of scaling a custom business.

Amy Feldman: How did you start the company?

Adam Gibbs: I did a modern-day version of what our family business had been. My grandfather and his brother had gotten out of the Army and started a fabric store in Mount Vernon, New York, in 1946 called Westchester Fabrics. My father worked for them and pioneered the home-décor department. It was an old-school business. They never looked to expand. When I got out of school in 1995, I thought maybe I could do something that was a twist on that. I opened a location in Port Chester that was selling materials but doing lots of custom stuff, custom window treatments and reupholstery.

Feldman: What happened to the original family store?

Gibbs: The fabric store was up and running until a year and a-half ago when my grandfather and my uncle passed in their 90s. Through their late-80s, they were in the store every day.

Feldman: How did your brothers and cousin get involved?

Gibbs: I had the store in Port Chester, then one of my brothers opened a store in Soho, and those stores were working really well. Then we got the idea for the Shade Store and taking it national. That’s when the other brother and cousin joined. The idea was to completely upend an industry that was exclusionary, expensive and time-consuming. We were like, What if we simplify this?