Budget Blinds of the Lowcountry
Author: Kitty Bartell
After 11 years, Bob and Kate Engler are still wowed by the growth of their Bluffton-based family business, Budget Blinds of the Lowcountry. “We’ve had so many customers over the years, and so much of our business is repeat and referral business,” Bob Engler said. “It’s amazing how customers continually give out our name. There are so many customers that we’ve worked with on a second home or a third home.” And the key to their success: “Always trying to change, improve, and get better. There’s never an air of complacency.”
Window blinds, shades, and shutters transform a room, and Engler, along with his in-house sales team and installation team have nearly perfected the process of meeting and exceeding expectations when matching the style, fit, and function of each job with the wishes and requirements of their customers. Historically, the selection of window treatments came at the end of a project; much like the landscaper, they were the last ones called in to finish off the project. That is changing, Engler said. “People are starting to come into the showroom earlier in the process, and that gives us the opportunity, if they don’t already know about it, to introduce motorized shades and motorized window coverings. They’re becoming like motorized windows in your car; nobody ever cranks down a window in their car any more. For safety reasons and just clean looks, folks are doing a lot more motorization.”
Whether designing and determining window coverings for new build construction or in an existing space, the Budget Blinds team works closely with electricians, architects, and project managers to provide seamless service and installation. An important part of that is having a conversation with the client about how they will be using the shades. “You can do either wall switches or remotes. Some people want it integrated into a home audio/video system,” Engler said. “If there are kids involved, wall switches are better because things [like remotes] get lost. In living spaces, we typically like to go with hand-held remotes.”
For people who like technology, a number of apps are available from which window coverings can be operated. “You would get a module that connects to the router in your house; then all the speak goes through that,” Engler said. “You can set different scenes. You can program your shades to go up or down at any time of day. If you’re not in town and you want to make it look like you are; you want your shades to raise up at 7 o’clock in the morning and go down at 6 o’clock at night; you can do that.”
Budget Blinds is expert at finding the right product for each job, whether residential or commercial. “One of the biggest changes we’ve seen over the past two years is that we’re doing more commercial work,” Engler said. A sampling of his commercial clients include several local schools, local car dealerships, The Beaufort Inn, Naval Hospital-Beaufort, Parris Island, and University of South Carolina Beaufort. “They [USCB] have a multipurpose-type room there. We put motorized shades in six high windows and six lower windows. They have black-out channels down the sides so when the shades go down it literally turns it to night time.”
Bob Engler, owner of Budget Blinds.
Engler said the majority of commercial projects are utilizing manually-operated roller shades. Replacing the once requisite aluminum and vertical blinds, most of their projects are well-served with roller shades, which block UV rays, block sunlight from hitting computer screens, provide privacy, are a little more energy efficient, are easier to use, and last a lot longer. Recalling the old roller shades that snapped up and came undone with relative ease, Engler said the newer products from well-known window covering manufacturers like Hunter Douglas are light-years ahead of the old snappers.
“We take a lot of pride in saying that our installers work just for us,” Engler said. “From an installation standpoint, it’s huge to have a crew of guys who work just for us and do it all the time. They have a process; they’re very good at it. They’re thorough and in most instances are going to be more particular than the customer.” Budget Blinds’ installers are first graded on their customer service skills. “We like to have people that are good with people; then we train them.”
The Budget Blinds showroom, located at 880 Fording Island Road, is replete with sample window treatments to get your imagination flowing.
Engler relies on project manager Josh Lauener, who has been with the company for nine years, to guide new team members to expert level installation. “When someone new comes on, they spend all their time with him [Lauener]. They don’t do anything by themselves for 90 days, and at that point, we slowly phase them in to doing jobs by themselves.”
Bob Engler executes the day-to-day operations of the business while Kate Engler does much of the behind the scenes work, including their marketing, advertising, human resources, and managing their company 401K program. Family time is spent with daughter Erin (10), who is passionate about dance and a fifth grader at St. Gregory the Great School, and son Sean (12), a student at Hilton Head Christian Academy who divides his time between golf (Dad sometimes gets to caddy), basketball, and cross country.
The Englers and the team at Budget Blinds of the Lowcountry are wowed on a daily basis by their customers, who may count on finding a hand-written thank you note in their mailboxes. Changing, improving, and getting better. It seems the wowing goes both ways.
Budget Blinds of the Lowcountry is located at 880 Fording Island Road, Suite 8, Bluffton. For more information, please call (843) 837-4060 or visit budgetblindsofthelowcountry.com.