In our latest Getting to Know we speak to Kirk Fitis and Greg McKenzie, the owners of Blinds in Style, based in Hurlstone Park. Both Kirk and Greg grew up in the Inner West and have an intimate knowledge of the area. Having worked in the window blind industry for over two decades, the pair achieved individual accolades in their chosen fields, before deciding to combine their skills in 2000 and form Blinds in Style.
The Blinds in Style team have a thoughtful and considered approach and work with their clients to achieve the best possible result. They are extremely customer-focussed and dedicated in their pursuit of perfection. Read on to find out more about Kirk and Greg’s story.
Tell us a little about yourselves and your relationship with the Inner West
Kirk: I was born and bred in Ashbury where my family still lives and attended Canterbury Boys High School. Over the years, I’ve seen the suburb and surrounds emerge as a wonderful place to live and bring up a family, with a supportive close-knit community. I’m a football (round ball type) freak and have trained upcoming soccer stars between the ages of 8–13 at Canterbury Junior Soccer Club for over 10 years. I also enjoy playing tennis regularly and love getting to know our customers.
Greg: I grew up in the Inner West attending primary school in Annandale and high school in Balmain and Newtown. Growing up, I also played sports year-round in the area – rugby league for Balmain PCYC and Leichhardt Wanderers, as well as cricket with Glebe PCYC. I completed an apprenticeship in detailed joinery and shopfitting in the Inner West as well. Out of work, I am an amateur radio enthusiast; enjoy fishing and have a talent for cooking. In the past few years, I’ve won first and second place for my homemade tomato chutney and tomato relish recipes at the Sydney Tomato Festival in the Sydney Botanical Gardens.
What motivated you to run your own business?
We met at another window blind company over 25 years ago, where we achieved the distinctions of top sales and installation team members respectively. This gave us the impetus to go out on our own and we have been working together successfully since 2000.
What services do you offer at Blinds in Style?
We specialise in all made to measure window coverings including the supply and installation of: blinds, shutters, awnings, curtains and motorisation. We also provide a repair and spare parts service.
Over the years, we have identified that our customers place a lot of value in our insights and recommendations for window covering solutions and this has become an increasingly important aspect of our initial consultation. Each location – whether it be a private or commercial premises – has individual needs and considerations. We spend time with the customer detailing all of the options, products; solutions and installation requirements that will best match their requirements.
During installation, we ensure all window coverings are fitted precisely and importantly, meet our customers’ expectations. We have been known to persevere with some of the more complex installations until we find the best solution.
One of our mantras is that our customers’ premises are our showroom – so we aim to provide the highest quality products and ensure each project is finished in the most efficient and organised manner, as ultimately, that is what will demonstrate what we offer.
What job/project have you been most proud of in your career?
Kirk: I’m particularly proud when we get a recommendation or referral from an existing or past customer, as knowing that they are happy enough to refer us, is the ultimate reward. We have been privileged to be welcomed by many respected companies, such as Sydney Olympic Aquatic Centre in addition to well-known individuals, but the most rewarding jobs are those completed for local family homes and businesses because these are at the core of our business.
Greg: When we leave a customer happy after their products are installed, it gives our team a lot of pride. This could be for a simple blind for a kitchen window or an entire house installed with a combination of awnings; curtains and shutters. Whilst residential jobs are a mainstay, we are also often involved in significant projects such as a well-known local rescue helicopter base and a number of international cruise ships while they are in port in Sydney.
You’ve been in the business for over 20 years, what has been the best innovation in your industry?
By far motorisation has made a significant impact on the window coverings industry. The availability of motorised blinds; curtains and awnings has not only made operating window coverings effortless, but enhanced safety – particularly when there are small children in a household. Motorisation negates the need for cords and chains which can be a choking hazard and they are absolutely a worthwhile investment. Smart technology also means that your window coverings can be operated remotely for those times you are not at home. We have even had some mums find them useful in waking up sleepy teenagers – just use the app on your smart phone to send a message to your motorised blinds or curtains to open!
How has the pandemic affected your business and the way you operate?
It has been a surprising year as we have faced both challenges and opportunities. Being a specialised business, we have fared well considering the circumstances. Whilst we have had to meet an increase in enquiries as more people are staying home and wanting to renovate, we have also had to deal with some delays in materials and supply of products. Thankfully, most of our products are Australian-made, so we have been able to successfully manage our customers’ expectations around timings.
We have also managed customer interactions appropriately both in our showroom and at their premises by adhering to proper health and safety measures. We have a great relationship with many of our customers and have worked well with them in minimising health concern risks.
What sets your business apart from other blind installation specialists?
As owner-operators, we are proud of our experience and hands on approach and find that our customers embrace this because we care about their satisfaction. We are also highly respected as specialists within the window coverings industry in Australia and are often recommended by local manufacturers to help find solutions with “their” products for customers. This has allowed us to develop strong relationships with our suppliers, the benefits of which are provided ultimately to our customers.
We place a lot of emphasis on attention to detail and constant training particularly with new products. Being smaller allows us to be flexible; decisive and ahead of the game in many instances.
Favourite places in the Inner West?
Kirk: One Penny Red in Summer Hill and Sideways Café in Dulwich Hill.
Greg: Orange Grove Markets every Saturday morning.
What/who inspires you?
Kirk: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho; Pelé and generally people who strive for the best.
Greg: Cooking with Loula Greek Recipes and any of our generous customers who share their home-made recipes with me!
For more information visit the Blinds in Style Website.