Brightside Blinds

Author Archive: Jennifer Reed

About Jennifer Reed

Stuart and Donna Schuster started their window treatment company back in 1984 in Palm Beach County. When their kids grew up and moved away, they sold that business, and moved up to Saint Augustine Florida, where they operate their business today.

Heart of Glass

I like to take a few minutes now and then
to image what the window treatment experience perspective is like from a
Windows’ point of view.
Let me explain.
If a window could speak it could tell
you what it needs, and what it wants.
Daydreaming one day last week, I imagined
I was that window and my name was Sonny.
“I feel so naked,” said Sonny, the
talking window.
“It’s at least 15 degrees hotter here than on the other side of
the room,” I mused.
“If I only had shutters from Brightside Blinds this due
east oceanfront, St. Augustine, Florida exposure wouldn’t be making me so
Sonny continued, “if I could drive, I would go to the
Brightside Blinds and Shutters showroom in St. Augustine.”
“I heard from a
neighbor, (actually a major pane) that Brightside treats its Windows with
respect, dignity and if there’s ever a problem, they follow through with service
after the sale,” Sonny said.
“Sure, I’m a window, like any other with or
without tempered glass, but without Brightside having my back (and front) I’m
just another 140 mph impact piece of see-through, clear surface.”
continued, ” I want solar shades, faux wood blinds, verticals and shutters.”
need to be measured properly and fit with the appropriate covering based on
Brightsides’ reputation for fair prices, quality products and fast
“The problem is, I heat up and can’t cool down,” Sonny says. “If I
had a computer, I would Google the Brightside Blinds website.
“If I could use a phone, I’d schedule a free, in home estimate/
Alas, my window role-play daydream ended abruptly when my cell
phone rang.
It’s a new home owner with a naked, talking window in St.
He or she probably needs window treatments.

Sent from my

How I wound up in the Blind Biz

33 years ago today my life changed.

My father, Marty, or Sonny, as his huge extended family lovingly referred to him, died suddenly at the age of 62 from a massive heart attack.

Aside from having to cancel the wedding I had planned for over a year, and the heartache of losing the father I adored, I also had to change careers.

My Mom and Dad started what was to become a very successful blind business in 1974. They were in their 8th year when my father passed. My mom was the inteior designer, and in store sales, and my dad handled everything else. I had my accounting degree from the University of Florida, and a promising career ahead of me. When my mom asked me to put that on hold….just for” a few months” to help her run the blind business, Of course I did.

Well, as you guessed, a few months turned into a couple of years. When my mom decided to sell her company in 1984…..I decided that with my business background…and my love of design….and a newborn son…….I would start my own blind company. Stuart kept his job as District Sales Manager for Pepperidge Farm for the first couple of years (so we could pay the bills!), but spent all of his free time helping me start our company. We struggled for awhile….but our hard work and dedication to our family and our business paid off.

I don’t think any child when asked what they want to be when they grow up says that they dream of selling blinds and shutters. I know I certainly did not. I did however, always envision myself owning my own company and helping people. I’ve learned that it makes no difference what product you are selling….you are always selling yourself.

So, here we are…living in the beautiful seaside town of St. Augustine….33 years later….still in the Blind and Shutter business…living the American Dream… father’s legacy to me.


Brick & Mortar

Compared to alot of places, St. Augustine can certainly be considered a challenging place to shop. I buy lots of things on the internet. Mostly sundries and such that I would have bought in a drugstore back in the day. Sometimes I “need” something specific like a teal mid century modern chair. After searching all of our local shops unsuccessfully, I will sometimes turn to internet shopping.There is nothing, and I mean nothing you cannot buy on the internet. (I found that chair on Amazon, and it is gorgeous!)

That being said….there are some things that should never…ever be purchased on the internet. I heard a commercial on the radio yesterday for a Blind company that made it sound so easy to measure your own windows, choose the right treatments, and then install your own blinds. “All you need is a cordless screw gun”. That may be fine for some people…people who have a background in interior design, can measure to the 16th of an inch, have broad knowledge of UV factors and insulation, and yes….own a cordless screw gun. Is that you?

Well, if it isn’t you are in luck. Brightside Blinds & Shutters has an actual showroom in St. Augustine. Here, you can look, feel, and touch the myriad of horizontal blinds, plantation shutters, solar roller shades,vertical blinds, draperies, and cornices on display. There are actual human beings at our shop, who will take the time to educate you, and help you choose the right window coverings for you own unique home.

Our services include “shop at home” and free estimates…but the fact that we have an actual location….”Brick and Mortar”, as they say speaks volumes about us. It shows that we have a commitment to this community. That we are here to stay. That you know where to find us. We were at our first location selling window coverings for nearly 25 years, and our current location in St. Augustine Beach, going on 10 years. That shows commitment. That shows that this is what we do. With us, you get it all. Fair prices, Best products, and by far the most superior service of anyone here in the oldest city. Sure, you could try and do it yourself, but with us just around the corner on Anastasia Island…why in the world would you?


Way back in 1984 when we began our company, we did not have a fax machine, let alone a cell phone. Our technology included a landline phone, an answering machine, and a beeper. We actually had to go to the bank to make deposits, and credit cards were copied on a manual little machine, and then mailed. Quick Books didn’t exist, and neither did online banking. In fact, the word “online” didn’t exist to my knowledge.Our books were kept in manual ledger pads, and I admit I really do miss the smell of a freshly sharpened pencil!

Our product line then consisted of Vertical Blinds, Aluminum Horizontal Blinds, Wood blinds, Roman Shades and Window Shades . So many fabulous window treatments were yet to be invented. “Faux” Wood Blinds and Shutters, Solar Shades, Shadings, Sliding Shutter Panels, and even Honeycomb Shades were all still on the horizon. Vertical Blind slats were mostly made of fabric, ( which didn’t do a whole lot of shading!). PVC was not yet extruded in the beautiful fabric-like finishes available in today’s market. Motorized Window treatments may have existed, but only for the rich and famous folks in Beverly Hills (not for us everyday folks here in St. Augustine! )Today motorization is  readily available on almost all window treatments. Some even use Solar Power for charging! We certainly have no shortage of sunshine here in St. Johns County:-)

We have always prided ourselves on staying abreast of all of the latest trends and innovations, both in our field and in modernizing our business in general. We attend trade shows every year, and attend seminars both in person and online. We even do a “go to meeting” now and again. We are one of very few business’ in the local market that has been around long enough to consider ourselves industry experts

Sometimes, we do miss the old days when we had to phone in orders to our suppliers, and invoices were actually mailed to us via snail mail. On the Bright Side though… the time we used to spend standing in line at the bank, can now be used to face time with our grandson  while working out on the Elliptical machine at the gym.

My dog the Super Model


This is our dog Fendi in our home back in 2001. He was 2 years old when this photo was used in a National advertising campaign for Phifer Sheerweave Solar Shades. The full page color ad was used for many many years in National magazines and on huge walls at Window Coverings trade shows.
Since this photo was taken, Solar Shades (or Sun Shades as many call them) have become a best selling window treatment. Here in St. Augustine, so many of us have beautiful water or marsh views we do not want to block out. Solar Shades provide a beautiful, easy and affordable window covering that blocks the harsh heat and glare of the sun, while allowing the view to be seen. The fabric can be made into very large shades, for both interior and exterior applications. It can also be made into Sliding Panels, which are a relatively new window covering option that is very popular. We offer motorization on Solar Shades both inside and outside.

On Friday, Feb 20th, we will be celebrating Fendi’s 16th birthday. Although he can no longer jump up on the couch, he enjoys relaxing at home, usually by a window. His modeling career is over, but he is enjoying his retirement! We however enjoy helping all the great folks in St. Augustine find the perfect window treatment for their homes!

There is something in the water

When my wife, Donna, and I first came to St.Augustine on vacation in 2004, we knew this was “the place”.
It wasn’t the “time”, but it was certainly the place we wanted to be. At that time in our lives, we had a thriving blinds, shutters and draperies business in South Florida.
We had a son at the University of Florida and a daughter about to be a senior in high school.
Moving was out of the question. So, we did what any sane, rational, middle aged couple would do.
We bought a lot across the street from the house we were renting, which happened to be accross the street from the Atlantic Ocean.
Low and behold, somehow everything fell into place.
We sold our 25 year old blind, shutter and drapery business and our daughter graduated from high school.
We sold our home in SoFla and changed our address to St. Augustine.
It was 2006, we were new to town, and decided to do the only thing we knew how to do…open a retail showroom to sell (drum roll) blinds, shutters and draperies.
From that fateful first day in business here, we knew something was very different in St. Augustine.
Everyone was really, really nice.
Nobody was ever in a rush, or seemed angry, and everyone always (without exception) had a kind word.
No offense to all of our friends and old customers in south Florida who may be reading this, but you were not that easy to deal with! (I’m being kind, folks.)
Nobody honks the second a light turns green in St. Augustine, and if they do, you just know they must be from somewhere else.
For awhile, we kept saying…”there must be something in the water”.
How could folks be so amicable all the time?
When other newcomers would come into our showroom in St. Augustine Beach, not surprisingly, they would say the same thing about something in the water here!
Wherever they came here from, it just wasn’t as friendly as it is in St. Augustine.
Well, time has passed, and now we finally “get it”.
It’s not that there is something in the water….it IS the water, that is, the miles of dog friendly Atlantic coast, the St. Johns river,(it flows backward) and a clean, beautiful and crystal clear Intracoastal Waterway.
People in St. Augustine come here for all this and more including breathtaking sunrises over the ocean, and on most days, colorfull “blood red” sunsets facing west.
We are only too happy to provide our clientele in St. Augustine with solar shades, blinds, shutters and drapery to help them enjoy the views in both directions!
For us, St. Augustines’ quality of life and a friendly local business climate are hand in glove.
Simply, we love to be in business here because we live here.
Our clientele (and the rest of the local population) are here because they too LOVE to live in St. Augustine.
We, like our new clients and neighbors, chose St. Johns County and its environs for all these reasons.
I did, however, get an oh-so-gentle beep from a car behind me the last time I failed to “go” at a green light on my way home from work today.


Mom and Pop vs. The Big Box Store

Is the Mom and Pop store dead ? Do big box stores control every retail industry in our modern world ? No and No. Here in St. Augustine Florida, my wife, Donna and I own and operate Brightside Blinds and Shutters. Our customers often  choose us based on our local reputation, and are not shy about telling us that. We often hear from prospective clients, ” We have come to you because we’ve had bad experiences with custom  made anything from the big box store. We are sure Home Depot or Lowes will screw up this time !” That may or may not be true. But prospective clients often interview us regarding the depth and scope of our industry knowledge. I get feedback from these folks after a job is done complimenting me and my staff for  delivering the job “right, the first time.” This didnt happen overnight. Selling blinds, plantation shutters and custom draperies is a unique retail business because its all about  measuring and finally installing custom fitted treatments to the sixteenth of an inch. A typical scenerio is like this: “I went to the big box store and they told me if I wanted custom window treatments, I would have to measure  and install myself. I dont have time for that and besides, Ive never used a tape measure in my life!” My job is to show them around our showroom displays, discuss treatment options and make an appointment  so we can measure and quote the job. Typically, its a day or two. Thats how a mom and pop business selling blinds, shutters and draperies in St. Augustine, Florida can thrive in an ecomony where mom and pops’ accross the board are disappearing. “Price, Product and Service,” used to be my mantra before the world economy crashed in 2008. I remember listening to TV news and radio reports of big box stores closing daily and thinking to myself, “Yes!” Because I knew St. Augustine needed what I had. My reputation as a fair, honest and LOCAL showroom store  preceded me before each and every free estimate. We not only survived a crashed world economy but increased sales at least 10% per year since then. Now, people here still remember the way things used to be. A Mom and Pop store in any small town American  community was commonly considered an integral part of the local economy. Here in St. Augustine, at Brightside Blinds and Shutters……… it still is.