From Father to Son
The Canvas Shop Continues to Thrive In Shipshewana
Michael Troyer, the owner of The Canvas Shop in Shipshewana, says he knows he is more fortunate than other small business owners. He stepped into a business already in place and one that has been growing steadily for more than four decades.
It is the longevity of the business that has been the key to its success, Troyer explains, as well as the element that sets The Canvas Shop above its closest competitors.
“It’s tough to start a business from scratch,” Troyer says. “To me it’s my customer base that gives me the [edge].”
There have been four owners of The Canvas Shop since its beginnings in the late 1970s. Most recently, Troyer took over the business from his father, Danny, who purchased it in 2006. Michael has been the owner for the last three years, leaving a job in the Recreational Vehicle industry at Forest River to take on a new role as the boss.
“Dad still gives me advice,” he adds.
Troyer worked for his father for several years before leaving to work in a factory.
The Canvas Shop manufactures canvas covers for boats, awnings and canopies for a mix of commercial and private clients. The industries served by the business include marine and boating, some RV work, agriculture and miscellaneous products. Marine products has been among the fastest-growing segment for at least the last decade.
Troyer is Amish and uses only the telephone and fax machine in communicating with potential customers.
“I don’t mess with technology,” he says. “People will call in the measurements for what they need, and we draw it by hand.”
Mixed in this is a run-through on the production with his employees.
So far, that has worked well for the company, which employs seven people, “who know as much about this business as I do,” he says.
Troyer says he listens to the advice and ideas he gets from his father and his staff.
It’s “not my way” to run a workplace that does not encourage sharing of ideas, he says. It also helps to develop the quality products Troyer is proud of. “Having good employees is worth more than anything,” he adds.
In this global marketplace of a world, Troyer still relies on word of mouth to bring in customers. Recently, his team completed an order for an outdoor grill cover for a customer in Maine. That referral came from a local company that sold the customer his grill. This is one recent example, but the company has completed projects for customers throughout the region and the United States.
Balancing his business with family time is a challenge for the father of three. He and his wife Corrina have three children. Their oldest is his daughter Kaylee at almost eight years old. Troyer’s son Zachary is six and Matthew is two and a half years old.
But now that he owns his own business, Troyer says it is easier to spend time with his children.
“We are rearranging some things to do this,” he says.
Working for himself is one advantage Troyer enjoys. Although the hours worked in a week are not necessarily better – his day starts at 5:30 a.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m. – it is important to “put the energy you have” into balancing the work and family life dynamic, he says.
Another advantage to having the business in a place like Shipshewana is the relationship that builds between other business owners. Some of his customers are those who also work in the community, such as the wood carving shop that needed divider curtains to keep wood dust to a minimum, or the farmers who need their trailer side curtains patched or fabricated.
“Local businesses support each other, and we get products we need from local businesses,” he says. “We are blessed.”
Troyer says he has not changed much about the business since he took over three years ago. That doesn’t mean it is not improving operations or coming up with new products. Much of that is dictated by customer request.
When categorizing his business into percentages, marine covers and related canvas products are a little more than half of his business, with the agriculture-related products second. But Troyer has a different way of looking at the overall picture. To him, 100% is miscellaneous, meaning each order has a custom feel and customer-driven requirement, so attention to detail and finishing in a timely manner is paramount.
“The main thing is to get the product out in a satisfactory timeframe,” Troyer says. “If something sits around here for more than a few weeks, I start to get worried.”
Troyer appreciates the community for their support and help, but he also has thanks for a higher power.
“God has been good to us,” he says.
The Canvas Shop is located at 850 N. Taylor Drive in Shipshewana. Contact Michael Troyer at 260-768-7755 or you can view a selection of products and additional information at shipshecanvas.com.