For 50 years, Jamestown Awning has provided Chautauqua County with custom-made awnings for commercial and residential use.
Beginning in 1964, the Wallen family started Jamestown Awning at its current location at 289 Steele St. in Jamestown.
"It started out real small - it was basically from scratch," said Mark Saxton, one of the current owners of Jamestown Awning. "It was a family business back then, and still is. ... We bought it from the Wallens (in 2000)."
Mark and Michelle Saxton, owners of Jamestown Awning, stand behind Lynn McDonald, an employee who worked at Jamestown Awning for 26 years.
P-J photo by Mallory Diefenbach
The Wallens, nearing retirement, sold the business to Mark and his wife, Michelle Saxton. Mark, previously a district manager in the grocery industry, was looking for a new adventure and said he always enjoyed working with his hands.
"It always intrigued me when I saw things like awnings and tents and how neat they were," he said.
Michelle, on the other hand, originally worked for Bush Industries as their vice president of product administration and didn't join Jamestown Awning until about 2006. The need for Michelle to have a more flexible work schedule arose as the business grew and only one person was in the office. Not only that, despite loving her job, she also realized more flexibility was needed to support their children as they grew older.
"By me leaving Bush and having a more flexible schedule, I dove 150 percent into my kids' sports programs and school programs," Michelle said. "I ran the concession stand, was in charge of the boosters program and it was probably some of the best years of my life."
Despite having no background in the awning business prior to buying Jamestown Awning, Mark said the skillful employees made the transition very easy. His own background in the grocery industry made the intricate parts of the business easy to pick up on. Michelle's background helped with sales and marketing and customer service.
"We basically refreshed things and did a lot of little things to help bring us into the 2000s," Mark said. Both Mark and Michelle stressed the Wallens provided a solid foundation which they have been able to build on to.
Jamestown Awning offers a variety of services and does a lot of commercial and residential applications. They also do industrial applications for factories and interior-type divider curtains. Michelle said Jamestown Awning has the largest inventory of tents anywhere in Chautauqua County.
"We also offer aluminum awnings and patio products," Mark said. "... We do a fantastic amount of weddings, party tent rentals, backyard parties and so on. We just introduced in the year 2012 tables, chairs, dance floors and kind of completed our rental tents for the hard products."
Michelle said the tents can support anywhere between 50 to 400 people as tents go anywhere from a 20 by 20 feet to 40 by 180 feet. She said the shift in the tent business is beginning to drift away from fairs and festivals and become more prominent in weddings and higher end events.
"We try to make it easy and pleasurable as we can for the brides because we know it can be a stressful time for them," Michelle said. "We try to do everything from giving them recommendations on what they might need, working with actual cad layouts so we can layout their entire reception for them to see what it is going to look like."
Jamestown Awning not only services Chautauqua County, but Warren and Cattaraugus counties; anywhere within a 100 mile radius of its hub on 289 Steele St. in Jamestown.
"What makes any organization or business successful is its employees," Michelle said. "We are very proud of our staff. They are a great bunch of dedicated and talented people that care and make things happen for our customers. We are very fortunate to have such a great core."
Jamestown Awning is open from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and on weekends by appointments.