By Nancy Gardner
Carl Mello, the creative mind and owner behind FunInTheShade, Custom RV Awnings, likes to tell the story of how he came up with the idea for his burgeoning company about two years ago on his first camping trip.
“The whole concept was this crazy idea I wanted for myself — I saw that all the motorhomes had either stripes or boring, fading colors on them. So I decided that I wanted something more exciting and creative for myself. I tell people you have to personalize your home away from home.”
All this personalization amounts to about 200 designs available at FunInTheShade.com or at 877-341-6793. They include 67 colleges, patriotic, scenic or camouflage awnings, or Mello will print your company logo on your rig. The made-to-order RV awning replacement fabric is constructed of durable, 13-ounce vinyl with a customer’s image of choice printed directly onto the fabric.
RVtravel.com spoke with the 46-year-old on a recent afternoon. Mello said business was particularly brisk, and credits his unique product and increasing selection to the surge in popularity. The Baton Rouge, La., native says he sells between 30-40 awnings a month to all corners of the United States and Canada, and, at least for now, he’s a one man show.
“I literally speak to every customer,” says Mello. “There’s no shopping cart on my website, and that’s to make sure that customers measure everything correctly.” There’s no automated telephone answering system either. “If they push one for parts they get me, two for service they get me, or three for customer service they get me. It’s to ensure they’ll get quality service every time.”
Custom awning prices range from $279 to $479 depending on size and design and include free shipping.