SAN LEANDRO − For Greg Parr, a lifelong career in the awning business began at an unlikely starting point. “I was a parachute rigger in the U.S. Navy,” he recalls. “In learning how to take care of parachutes, flight gear and aircraft interiors, we were taught how to sew and work with fabric and canvas. After 10 years with the Navy, I ended up in Hawaii, where I apprenticed with a company that made sails for catamarans in Waikiki. In addition to making sails, I learned how to design and manufacture awnings.”
Eventually, Greg was promoted to manager of the company, where he gained experience with estimating and other sales-oriented aspects of the business. After a few years, he decided it was time to strike out on his own. “I opened my own canvas awning company in Oahu, where I perfected my trade,” he says. “In Hawaii, the sun and salty air are really brutal on canvas products, so I learned how to make my awnings bulletproof against the elements.”
Greg moved from Hawaii to the Bay Area in the mid-1990s, where he continues to live in Santa Clara with his wife, Tina, and stepdaughter, Geneva. Today, as a sales specialist at Acme Sunshades Enterprise Inc., Greg says his favorite part of his job is gaining the confidence of his customers. “A custom awning is a big financial investment, so I like putting my customers at ease and earning their trust. Often, I’m able to make a customer comfortable enough to put down a deposit after just a short meeting, so that’s very gratifying and keeps me motivated.”
Outside of work, Greg stays engaged in a variety of pastimes. “Ever since I was in the Navy, I’ve been active with various veterans’ associations,” he says. “I help with fundraising and planning reunions, and since I’m more tech-savvy than most people my age, I do graphics for flyers and help veterans reconnect via Facebook.” Greg also likes to spend time pursuing his longtime hobby of photography. “I took up photography while I was in the military, and it has become a real passion of mine,” he says. Additionally, Greg stays in touch with his daughter, Katrina, and son, Justin (his eldest son, Charles, passed away in 2011 while in active service with the U.S. Marines).
In his life and career, Greg espouses the importance of honesty. “I try to be forthright and open with others, whether it’s my friends, family or customers,” he says. “At work, this might mean telling a customer upfront that a certain product or design they want isn’t right for the application. They might not want to hear that, but in the end, they’ll be happier having a product that properly suits their home or business.”
When asked the first thing he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, Greg says he’d move to the Philippines. “My wife is from the Philippines and we have some property over there. We go to visit once or twice a year, and it’s such a great place. Everyone is so friendly and there’s so much to do—you just go from one adventure to another.”