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Miami Awning started before air conditioning was available and awnings were a must

A large canopy created by Miami Awning is at an entrance of Dolphin Mall.
A large canopy created by Miami Awning is at an entrance of Dolphin Mall.

Miami Awning has been providing shade since 1929, said Michael Reilly, CEO and president of the family-owned business.

Launched in Miami Beach and based in Miami since 1968, Miami Awning designs, engineers, builds, installs and services an enormous range of sturdy and fashionable “shade solutions” for residential and commercial clients in Florida (mostly South Florida), the Southeast, the Caribbean and Latin America.

Its colorful awnings brighten local businesses and residences, its cabanas sit alongside swimming pools and on beaches at luxury hotels, while its retractable awnings and canopies allow hotels and restaurants to expand their usable commercial space and provide customers with protection from bad weather. Prices range from about $10,000 to $15,000 for residential patio awnings to $200,000 or more for large retractable canopies at hotels and resorts.

Miami Awning starts with a client’s vision, works with designers and engineers, and builds a product that fits the client’s original idea. “We’re in a custom craft business,” Reilly said. “We provide a balance between aesthetics and function. It’s a big juggling act.”

Unlike most American companies founded at the time of the great stock market crash 89 years ago, Miami Awning has endured the Great Depression, World War II, small and large recessions, as well as the widespread use of air conditioning.

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Miami Awning company executives, from left: Joseph Reilly, production manager; Joan Reilly Garvey, secretary/treasurer and sales manager; Daniel Reilly (standing), installations manager; Michael Reilly (sitting), owner, CEO and president; Bill Garvey, vice president, and Gustavo Rotella, vice president. They are at the company’s headquarters at 3905 N.W. 31st Ave., Miami. Joseph A. Mann Jr. For the Miami Herald

It has survived its own booms and busts by providing customers with durable, high-quality products built to meet their needs, and keeping up with new designs, frames and awning materials they want.

“We have the people, the know how and the capacity to do things better,” Reilly said.

Some of the company’s early clients were Al Capone, who had a home on Palm Island, and the former president of the F. W. Woolworth Co., Byron D. Miller, who built the Villa Vecchia mansion in Miami Beach.

Current clients include Miami’s BaysideMarketplace, The Breakers, the Eden Roc Miami Beach, the Spice Restaurant in Anguilla, a British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean, as well as local residences of prominent sports, entertainment and political figures.

Also essential to the company’s long term success is serving both commercial and residential customers to balance revenue flow. Big commercial jobs, currently about 65 percent of the firm’s order book, are more profitable but take longer to develop and complete. With smaller residential projects, the company can finish them — and get paid — faster.

Miami Awning offers warranties of five to eight years on its products, which may last 10 years (outside) and up to 20 years (interior). The company sometimes receives calls from 1950s clients who want to re-cover their original Miami Awning frames.

Reilly began working full time for the company in the late 1970s after finishing college (a bachelor’s degree in economics from St. Edward’s University in Texas) and spending several years traveling and fishing in the Keys.

AWNING C.1932
The outside of the company in 1932. Unlike most American companies founded at the time of the great stock market crash 89 years ago, Miami Awning has endured. Miami Awning

Company name: Miami Awning.

Founded: as Miami Beach Awning Co. in 1929 in Miami Beach. Name changed to Miami Awning in 1968.

Founders: Elizabeth A. Reilly LaPointe and her son, Bert J. Reilly.

Owner, CEO and president: Michael Reilly, great-grandson of Reilly LaPointe. Other Reilly family members hold leadership positions in the family-owned firm: Michael’s sister, Joan Reilly Garvey, sales manager; her husband, Bill Garvey, vice president; and Michael’s sons, Joseph Reilly, production manager, and Daniel Reilly, installations manager.

Headquarters: 3905 <FZ,1,0,15>N.W. 31st Ave., Miami (Brownsville), since 1997.

Employees: 42 full time, plus contractors.

Clients: Hotels, resorts, restaurants, malls, retail outlets, parking garages and residences.

Financials: Revenue in 2017 increased by 8 percent and was up 25 percent for the first half of 2018, Reilly said. The company is attracting larger commercial jobs – mainly from existing clients – and has expanded to other states, the Caribbean and Latin America.

Competitors: Main competition comes from Hoover Architectural and American Made Awnings of Hollywood (Thompson Architectural Products). There are scores of other awning companies in South Florida.

The difference: The company has decades of expertise in a niche market for custom-made, high-quality shade products. It constantly looks for new ways to help clients maximize their commercial space, generate new revenues and make their properties more comfortable and appealing.

Client view: Miami’s Bayside Marketplace has been an important client of Miami Awning since 1986, a year before the open-air shopping and entertainment center opened to the public. “I have been working with Miami Awning for 15 years, and they were the original awning designers and suppliers for us,” said Pamela Weller, senior general manager for Bayside Marketplace since 2003 and senior general manger for the Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp., which owns the mall. Miami Awning supplies different sizes of awnings, umbrellas and signs for common areas and individual stores. “They design awnings based on the esthetics of the building,” she said, like a sail-shaped awning made to order for an outdoor restaurant.

AWNING CCC Miami Beach penthouse Custom Retractable Canopies and Adjusta
Custom-made retractable canopies at a Miami Beach penthouse. Miami Awning

“They combine imaginative design skills with a strong work ethic and the ability to do just about anything we need in the world of awnings. They are an all-encompassing company – from design to development, manufacturing, installation and service,” Weller said. “They do the best work, deliver on time and stand by their work. Whenever I call them, there is a heartbeat .. they never say ‘no.’”

Business lesson: Several years back the company – which uses a range of synthetic fabrics and some canvas – bought a new fabric that was not tested. It contained a chemical that caused premature fabric deterioration and had to be replaced on several jobs where it was used. The company now rigorously tests fabrics or only purchases fabrics that have been tested for years to withstand sunlight, rain, wind, mold and mildew.

“We like to make up for the big mistakes by making thousands of smaller ones,” Reilly joked.

Best business decision: Maintaining a sound mix of commercial and residential work.

Outlook: Miami Awning sees current and future growth opportunities for large commercial projects in Florida, the Southeast, the Caribbean and Latin America, especially for retractable canopies and large awnings that allow clients to expand their useable space.

Challenges: A major challenge always is to maintain a smooth flow in the design, engineering and manufacturing processes so that the company’s custom products are ready and can be installed when a project is near completion. Awnings are usually the last items to be installed, and Miami Awning has to keep track of whether a client’s project will be completed late, early or on time.

The writer can be reached at josephmannjr@gmail.com.

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