A Century-Old Tale of Vision, Value and Versatility

In the idyllic town of Spiceland, Indiana the year 1902 marked the beginning of a rivalry that would shape an industry. Luther Draper and Oliver Steele, once partners but now competitors, each established their ventures to craft spring roller shades for schools. Luther’s company, aptly named the Draper Shade Company, would eventually set the stage for a legacy spanning over a century, deeply rooted in innovation.

By Stephanie Casimiro

As the 1950s rolled around, Draper, amidst repairing projection screens in schools, stumbled upon an idea that would chart a new course for their enterprise. Realizing the potential of the spring roller in the realm of projection screens, the company delved headlong into this new market. Then, in a twist of fate during the 1990s, the family-owned Draper made a strategic acquisition of the Oliver Steel Company. Oliver Steele, with its focus on gymnasium equipment, seamlessly complemented Draper’s expanding repertoire.

The tale of Draper, however, is not just a chronicle of products and acquisitions. It’s a testament to their unparalleled adaptability. At the turn of the millennium, a pivot towards commercial shading marked another milestone in their journey. Over the years, this segment went from the smallest to the largest segment of business. Throughout these evolutions, the company’s ethos remained unwavering. Nestled in its heart is a commitment to its origins – a family-owned enterprise with products proudly crafted in the USA.

Clint Childress, Director of Residential Markets at Draper, reflects on the company's knack for staying ahead of the curve, “It wasn't just about intuiting what the market might require. It was the symbiotic feedback loop with the dealer network that truly set Draper apart. Draper wasn't just selling products. They were actively engaging with their partners, the installers, who often approached them with specific needs or gaps they observed in the market.”

Their proactive strategy, centered around the evolving architectural market, became their hallmark. But the true magic? Draper’s unique synergy with its dealer network. The company has consistently acted on feedback, not just as a vendor, but as a trusted partner.

The insights gained from these interactions have allowed Draper to craft solutions that not only meet but often exceed expectations. It’s a testament to the company’s commitment to forging deep relationships and engaging in meaningful dialogues. And speaking of evolution and insights, the modern shift towards green construction ushered in a new era for Draper.

Clint, who has been with Draper since the 2000s, highlighted a shift around 2004-2005. “As the hunger for sustainable construction grew, so did the architectural penchant for larger windows, ushering in an era of ‘daylighting’. This demand for expansive glazing, while aesthetically pleasing and energy-efficient with its influx of natural light, brought with it challenges – chiefly, the potential for excessive solar heat gain. Enter intelligent shading: systems that aren’t merely reactive but are anticipatory, adjusting autonomously to the sun’s position, similar to how a smart thermostat learns and adjusts to its occupants’ preferences. This isn’t just about convenience; it’s about constructing buildings that are smarter, greener and more responsive to their environment.”

In essence, as buildings have grown to be more glass-laden and sustainability-conscious, smart shading, like that of Draper’s, has risen not just as a luxury but as a necessity, contributing significantly to a building’s energy efficiency and occupant comfort. Today’s shades aren’t merely functional; they play a crucial role in energy efficiency and comfort, integral to the green building movement.

The architectural world is ever-changing, and Draper’s ability to listen and adapt is showcased in their Gabled Bottom-Up FlexShade®. Designed to accommodate unique architectural angle-topped windows, this motorized shade perfectly embodies the merger of style and utility.

“Our award-winning Gabled Bottom-Up FlexShade stands as a testament to innovation meeting efficiency,” Clint explains. “While in the past we approached angled tops with custom builds – a process both time-consuming and costly – we’ve now pioneered a design that allows for mass production. This not only keeps costs in check but also significantly reduces lead times. It’s our commitment to provide unique solutions for common shading challenges, like those sloped windows in A-frames, at both a reasonable cost and timeframe.”

But the Gabled Bottom-Up FlexShade is not an isolated innovation. It’s an integral piece of the larger ‘Draper at Home’ puzzle, a fresh venture teased in 2021 and fully realized this year.

“Our launch of ‘Draper at Home’ is more than just entering the residential market – it’s a commitment to expanding horizons and reshaping the world of shading. We didn’t want to merely mirror what others were doing or provide a cheaper alternative. Instead, we set out to offer more, to innovate, and to truly make a difference. From our custom color options to our unique gabled bottom-up shades, we’re setting the pace and proving our dedication. It’s not just about standing out but adding genuine value to the lives of homeowners.”

The story of Draper isn’t about chasing trends but setting them. Their quest isn’t to merely enter markets but to expand them. With a clear vision and an unwavering commitment to offering real value, Draper continues to carve out its niche. The company’s products, all proudly made in Spiceland, Indiana, stand as a testament to their American quality control, a beacon of trust in a market inundated with imports. More than just a manufacturer, Draper emerges as a trusted partner, dedicated to enriching experiences for both dealers and customers. In today’s rapidly evolving world, Draper’s commitment to genuine partnerships and value-driven experiences truly sets it apart.