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History

Annapolis MontageLike the city of Annapolis and the Pride of Baltimore, City Awning Company also has a long and rich history. The article below is reprinted from The Public Enterprise newspaper in Annapolis, MD. from the February, 1992 issue.

Annapolis' old City Awning Co. known regionally for many years, was sold to new owners as of Feb. 7, and is now slated to get back on the track once familiar to many, but off on a branch line since 1984.

New owners are Robert and Karen Miller. And though not strictly speaking "on deck," the friendly advisory assistance of Joseph J. Goetz, who had the firm from 1953 to 1984.

The firm is a slice out of Annapolis' own 20th century commercial history. In 1923, a retired Navy sailmaker-one of the last of his ancient naval breed-one Axel Anderson, decided to start his own canvas business making awnings of all sorts in a shop at the rear of his house on 6th St. in Eastport.

In the early '30s he decided to retire again and offered his thriving little business for sale. It was purchased by Gardiner A. Hall and his wife Dorothy, who moved it to 120 West St. where both lived. On Dec. 15, 1939, a fire that began in a faulty neon window sign forced the couple to temporarily move across the street. In March of 1940, they purchase the property at 1311 West St., built a shop, and began to diversify by adding wood and metal blinds, window shades, and upholstering. The old Carvel Hall hotel (restored as the Wm. Paca House) was one of their accounts.

During WWII, City Awning did its part, manufacturing products among which were large, funnel-shaped canvas sea anchors, searchlight and deck gun covers, and covers for bunk mattresses for the wooden torpedo boats being b uilt for Britain and the Soviet Union in Eastport at the old Annapolis Boat Works (later Trumpy's Yacht Yard, and today 222 Severn Ave. and the chart House Restaurant).

Circumstances led to the Halls and Joe Goetz and his wife Lenore meeting in January of 1953, and the company was offered to them. The sale was completed on April 13 that year and for the next 31 years, the Goetz's continued to fill the canvas needs of an ever-expanding clientele and further diversified product lines to include aluminum, vinyl awning, canopies and windows and doors, plus a variety of interior treatments form draperies to window shades.

Late in 1983, Rick Grieg and his wife Christine, of Toronto, Canada, made an offer to buy the firm. That sale was completed on Jan. 10, 1984. The Griegs decided to take City Awning on a different path; they would specialize in commercial work, and gradually eliminated the greatly diversified lines developed over the preceding half-century. This forced hundreds of loyal local residential customers to buy elsewhere.

The decline of the '80s boom times, and what was called "general mismanagement," led the Griegs, late in 1991, to virtually abandon the company and seek employment elsewhere. That left the Goetz's, as the secured party, to either close its doors or jump in and attempt a rescue of the 68-year old firm.

They opted for rescue, and a very loyal crew of employees, headed up by Dottie Wood, seamstress turned-suddenly-management by the departure of the Griegs, leapt into the breach.

"After months of much legal mumbo-jumbo," said Joe Goetz, "and active networking within the industry and its suppliers" he and Leonore found Robert Miller, who as a child had been taught how to install grommets in products made at his grandfather's canvas business in Baltimore, and who stayed with the craft through adulthood.

Joe Goetz is very pleased. Miller, he asserts, is not only "very proficient in all phases of the business," but hasn't missed a beat, and aims to welcome back City Awning's old local customers and new clients as well.

Its present shop is a 145 Gibraltar Ave., off West St., just past the old Capital-Gazette building.