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Headingley business lets the sunshine in

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Once our temperature rises, the snow melts and before we know it, it’s mosquito season!

Mosquitoes are one of the top selling points for Owen Shaffer, one of the three partners in Headingley’s SunCo Sunspaces. The pesky insects, coupled with wind, dust and rain, can really put a damper on patio and deck living. The company provides homeowners with an alternative way to enjoy our short summers, and to extend their enjoyment to the spring and fall, by having a sunroom designed and built.

"It’s a celebration product," said Shaffer, adding that the company’s 10-year warranty helps ensure customer satisfaction.

A sign stating "Your wife clearly wants a sunroom" stands next to SunCo’s office and factory at 4835 Portage Ave.

This slogan ties in with the company’s motto of "Your Clearest Choice" and also points to something Shaffer discovered when he first began meeting prospective clients about 13 years ago.

He said, when ending one of the company’s free in-home design consultations, the man of the house sometimes tries to postpone making a final decision, but is often overruled by his spouse or partner.

Shaffer was working in publishing in the mid-’90s and considered a career switch after having a sunroom added onto his St. James home. He realized the potential in that industry, and learned the design and engineering skills required to plan and build sunrooms. He then formed SunCo with two partners in 1999.

Their first display model was a freestanding structure placed on Paterson Garden Centre’s property in Headingley in spring 2000.

Shaffer believes that people need to see a display model sunroom, and there are three full-sized rooms in front of the building, which they share with Canoak Flooring. One was built in 2003 and is being auctioned off for the best offer over $5,000 received by May 10.

"They are open 24/7," he said, but Saturday is the busiest day for visitors.

A savvy marketer, Shaffer has discount coupons placed in the display models. He can use these to find out who visited the displays if they follow up with a consultation.

As well as checking out the display models, Shaffer suggests taking a look at the company’s website, as it contains before-and-after photos and customer testimonials. "That’s the real starting point," said Shaffer.

Most sales are generated by referrals, and the company has built sunrooms in locations from northwestern Ontario to Saskatchewan. "After a certain distance, it becomes too costly," Shaffer said.

The majority of sunrooms are constructed as additions. An average size of between 150 and 200 square feet will cost approximately $15,000 to $20,000.

Shaffer said after a design is selected, it usually takes between six and eight weeks for the sunroom to be pre-manufactured in the company’s factory, renovations to the existing home to be made and the room to be delivered and  erected. The on-site work requires five to seven days.

The company is able to install sunrooms throughout the year, and also does home renovations. In this way, they are able to keep their crew of about 20 employees working year-round.

Shaffer and his partners anticipate continuing growth as the company is poised to begin using a proprietary enterprise management system and 3-D design technology to open SunCo Sunspaces dealerships in locations from the Rockies to Thunder Bay.

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