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Glawe Awnings: At The Crossroads
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On the edge of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base lies a bustling industrial park. This August morning, the sun is shining, and the quiet is occasionally punctuated by the zoom of aircraft. Tom Fridley, MFC, vice president of sales at Glawe Awning and Tent Co., Fairborn, Ohio, is standing on his business´s front lawn and pointing toward the military complex to his west. "We´re the exclusive tent company for the U.S. Air and Trade Show, which is held there," he says. "It´s the largest in the United States, and rivals the big airshow in Paris."

Of course, Glawe didn´t just get the contract because of its convenient location. Founded in 1877, the company has a long history of manufacturing high-quality awnings and tents for all sorts of applications—even for the aeronautics industry. Fridley proudly reflects, "Back in 1903, when the Wright brothers went to Kitty Hawk, they actually purchased a tent from us. They took it with them, and that´s what they slept in while they were there." Even now, the company remains embedded in the world of airplanes. Its solution to a dearth of warehouse space would cause most canvas-shop owners to salivate: Glawe is permitted to store its bulkiest tent-rental equipment, such as carpets and light rigs, in an airplane hangar.

There´s a skill in finding the perfect site and using it to its fullest. The company´s first shop, back in the 19th century, was located at the crossroads of what are now Interstates 75 and 70, giving Glawe access to traffic from every point of the compass. Three shops later, the firm is perched on the beltway that surrounds Dayton and its suburbs. According to Fridley, customers on all sides of town have easy access to the shop and its showroom. Dayton itself is practically an ideal market. Fridley reckons he has one worrisome competitor in the awning business, and only about three tent companies that compete with him for bids. "I probably have about 30 or 40 contractors that I do work for exclusively," he says. "I won´t say that they never go out for other bids, but if a project calls for an awning, they will automatically call me. They use our figure for their bid, so if they get the job, I get the job." Still, from a historic perspective, none of Glawe´s clients are shoo-ins. "Twenty years ago, a person would call you up and you´d do the business without any thought," Fridley muses. "Today there is a lot more competitive bidding."


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